Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dancing with the ballots

Editor's Note: The Count -- aka Carrie Budoff -- is off today. More from Natalie Pompilio.

A lot of people don't realize this, but there's a kind of choreography to a recount.

When the votes are separated into piles, everyone stands. The election workers sort, the party watchers watch, sometimes leaning over the table to review a ballot. The wandering lawyers go between tables and mark figures on tablets.

Then everyone sits and it's time to count the ballots in each pile. It's a lot like when little kids first learn their numbers and everyone watches them as they go higher and higher. Here in Recountville, they count in packs of 10. The low drone of "one, two, three.." underlies every other sound.

It's tedious work and not very exciting to watch. As Levine remarked, "If you can't go to Florida this year, you can at least recreate Florida 2000 in Chester County."

When they were facing off in court, Tabas and Levine were loud as they argued whether today's recount should be done by hand or by machine. But they're quiet this afternoon. Everyone is. Toward the end of the morning session, when people were confused as to what to do about the missing ballots, it actually got high school classroom loud. That's settled down.

And what did they do about the missing ballots? Nothing yet.

As of late afternoon, there were nine ballots unaccounted for. Of those, it appeared five of the votes belonged to Smith and the other four to Royer. (One observer remarked that, "Whoever has them should put them on ebay. A souvenir from the 156th.") Since the split was about even - and since they hadn't decided exactly what to do about the ballots that are MIA - the count is going on. They'll deal with it later if they have to.

Chester County has 29 voting precincts. It's 4 p.m. and eight have been counted. The three tables move at different speeds, and it's almost like when you're at the baseball game and they play that random race on the screen and you find yourself rooting for a blue car or a red or yellow one. We observers have made this sport in an effort to jazz things up. And Team 3? You are really letting us down.

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