Every vote gets counted

With the election coming up, I've got a few questions. I'd like to know if election officials in Jackson County count every voter, or if they simply count a "random sampling" of the votes, as I've heard happens in other areas. If so, what can be done to change the system nationally to make it a requirement to have all the votes counted? I would rather have an accurate count, even if it took months, than to know the outcome on election night. Also, if we do a "sampling," would a person's vote have a better chance of being counted if it were received earlier, as opposed to on election day, as I usually do?

— Chris G., Central Point

We don't know what country you think you're living in Chris, but this is America, where every vote counts. We don't know where you got the idea that the county only counts a sample of the votes.

Just to make sure, we checked in with Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker — obviously a different "Chris."

"Every ballot gets tabulated," Walker said. "Definitely, every ballot gets counted. Every signature gets checked."

If you've ever been over to the Jackson County Elections Center on election night, Chris, you'll realize that a lot of effort goes into verifying and counting every vote. Signatures are verified, ballots are checked and dozens of volunteers make sure every voter is counted.

Maybe you're getting confused by "polling," which is undertaken by independent pollsters who try to get a snapshot of voting. This polling has nothing to do with the election process itself. If you listen to news reports, you often hear the news person say a poll was taken that sampled the reaction of a certain number of voters.

We don't know if you remember, but in 2000, the state of Florida underwent a contentious recount of ballots in the presidential election. Does "hanging chad" ring a bell?

On Nov. 6, the election results will show all the votes that have been counted, not just a sampling. However, after election night, more ballots do trickle in from other areas of the state, and some ballots have a signature that doesn't match with records or other problems that have to be tracked down.

After all this verification, the Jackson County clerk releases an official election result several weeks after election night. The official results generally don't change the outcome of an election, but sometimes the results are close enough that candidates request a recount.

The next time someone tells you that only a sampling of voters determines the election, Chris, you can tell them, "It ain't so."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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