top of page
  • Mamaroneck Observer

Election Results Explained

If you went to bed on Election Night feeling a bit confused, you were not alone. After all, the County Board of Elections’ website showed an unofficial count with the three Republican/Friendly Village Party/Conservative candidates with a comfortable lead. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates, their friends and supporters claimed victory and celebrated at a local restaurant.

It’s not uncommon for the vote tallies to be off on Election Night. The Board of Elections doesn’t certify the results for several days. But this was different, and things got a little stranger. On Thursday, November 10th, the vote count changed dramatically with a reduction in the range of 580-866 votes from the Republican candidates and, as a result, the Democrats took the lead.

So, what happened? Tajian Nelson, Democratic Commissioner of the County Board of Elections, held a public Zoom meeting on Thursday, January 12th to explain that it was a case of “manual error.”

While the actual uncertified counts cannot be recreated, understanding the process that created the confusion might help put this election behind us and point out problems that should be solved before the next one.

On Election Night, after the polls close, here’s what happens all over Westchester County:
· Every voting machine yields a printout of its votes in a hard-to-read tape-like format. The poll workers decipher the numbers and usually transcribe them onto a sample ballot to make their reporting easier. This is the first possibility for manual error.
· The poll workers then call the County Board of Elections (BOE) to verbally report the tallies. The BOE employees transcribe the numbers onto a worksheet that, unlike the ballots, has no names of candidates nor Party names – just numbered boxes as identifiers. Second and third instances of possible manual error.
· The worksheets are then handed off to data entry staff who input the tallies into the system that feeds the BOE website. Fourth possibility for manual error.
· Meanwhile, the memory cards from every voting machine are collected and transported to BOE headquarters. The memory cards are uploaded into the system and the manual data from Election Night is replaced with a more accurate machine count.
· As a safeguard, the paper ballots are also rescanned at BOE headquarters and only after that process are the election results certified.

In Mamaroneck, the Republican candidates had two lines on the ballot: Republican/Friendly Village Party and Conservative Party. Commissioner Nelson asserted that somehow votes on a third line were entered into their Election night computer system. When the computer memory cards were uploaded and assumed to have overwritten the manual counts, there was no computer data in those fields to overwrite the erroneous counts. Nelson said this led to a duplication of some votes. The duplication error wasn’t discovered until an audit of the process was begun which led to the change in the numbers several days later.

When reached by phone, local resident and government watchdog, Suzanne McCrory said that she was satisfied with Commissioner Nelson’s explanation. However, McCrory stated that “she thinks the notion that they (BOE) twice published data that was really wrong is horrible.”

Commissioner Nelson assured the 30 or so attendees at the Zoom meeting that the certified vote tallies are accurate and that they are working on an automated solution to upload directly from each polling place to the BOE computer. This would eliminate four instances of human intervention and possible manual error. While it’s too late to prevent what happened here in Mamaroneck, it is important for voters to have faith in the integrity of our elections.

Here is the link to the certified results of the Village election last November.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page