AUBURN — Counting of absentee ballots cast by DeKalb County voters in Tuesday’s General Election will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Election Day, with the goal of having all mail-in absentee ballots counted by 6 p.m. on election night, DeKalb County Clerk Holly Albright said Thursday.
“The first thing we will do is tally out the 12 voting machines that were used for early in-person voting and then begin counting the mail-in absentee ballots. There will be eight people, which is four teams of absentee ballot counters counting mail-in ballots,” Albright said.
Albright noted the entire election process is conducted in a bi-partisan manner. Election Board members, poll workers, absentee boards and absentee ballot counters all are appointed by the chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties. In DeKalb County, those chairs are Democrat Suzanne Drerup-Davis and Republican Richard Ring.
Albright explained the mail-in absentee voting process:
To vote by mail, a voter had to submit an application. The application requires the voter’s signature. The application is scanned into the State Voter Registration System under the voter’s record and if the application is approved, the voter is mailed a ballot, Albright said.
All applications are filed alphabetically according to precinct. When the voter completes his or her ballot, he or she must sign it in order for it to be counted. When the ballot is received back in the clerk’s office, the application is attached to the ballot. The absentee board, which is a bipartisan team, will compare the signature on the ballot to the signature on the application, and as long as they agree the signature matches, the ballot is marked “received” in the SVRS system, filed alphabetically according to precinct and locked away until Election Day to be counted, Albright explained.
If the absentee board does not agree the signature matches, a signature history file from SVRS is generated and the absentee board compares the signature on the ballot to list of signatures on file. If they still do not agree that the signature on the ballot matches any of the signatures on file, then an Affidavit of Signature Verification is mailed to the voter notifying there is an issue with the absentee ballot.
“Upon receipt of the signature verification statement, the election officials will compare the signature on the verification statement with signature on the ballot envelope. If, upon conducting the comparison of signatures, the board determines that the signatures match, the board shall open the absentee ballot and add the votes cast on the ballot to the tally for the voter’s precinct.
“If, upon conducting the comparison of the signatures, the election officials determine that the signatures are mismatched, the voter’s absentee ballot shall not be opened and the ballot shall not be counted. The election officials shall write, ‘This ballot has been rejected because of a mismatched signature’ on the face of the ballot envelope,” Albright said.
If a ballot is received without a signature, an Affidavit for Unsigned Ballot is mailed to the voter to notify him or her of the issue. Upon receipt of the unsigned ballot statement, the absentee board goes through the same signature verification process described above.
Signature verification and unsigned ballot affidavits must be received by the Election Board no later than noon eight days after the election. For the Nov. 3 General election, the deadline is noon on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
Albright said several affidavits have been mailed to voters, and her office is waiting for them to be returned. In the 2018 general election, out of 566 received mail-in ballots, none were rejected. In the 2016 general election, three were rejected out of 624 mail-in ballots received, Albright added.
On Election Day, a report is generated from SVRS listing all the absentee ballots that were mailed in each precinct, if they were received back and the dates they were received. The bipartisan absentee board/ballot counters will verify the ballots against the report to verify everything is accounted for.
“Next, the team will open the ballots and separate the ballot envelope and application from the ballot card and attach a sheet listing the name of the precinct and the number of ballots. The ballot cards are then manually fed through a computerized card reader to record the votes and count the number of ballots read, which will match the number the absentee board documented,” Albright said.
She noted that separating the ballot cards from the envelopes and applications ensures that the ballot remains confidential.
“Ballots must be received by the county Election Board by noon on Election Day to be counted. We check our post office box in the morning and at noon on Election Day,” Albright said.
On Election Day, after the polls close at 6 p.m. a bipartisan team from each vote center will return the voting equipment and supplies back to the county Election Board. The Election Board enters the tallies of each vote center into the election system to record the votes cast.
Only after all 10 vote centers have returned with their tallies and all absentee ballots have been counted will any results be released by the Election Board, Albright said.
“All results are posted on the county website at co.dekalb.in.us The results will be on the home page at the top in a red banner under ‘Important News,’” she added.