Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One, two, three, four, five . . .

Editor's Note: The Count -- aka Carrie Budoff -- is off today, but here's a first-hand report from yet another Inquirer reporter, Mari Schaefer.
12:41 p.m. Back from lunch.
The counting — at least in one precinct — continues. In this precinct, the ballots were already placed in seven piles: Straight Republican, Straight Democrat, Vote for Smith, Vote for Royer, Undervote, Overvote, and Challenge. An election official carefully goes through each pile, sounding out each vote in batches of ten.
12:57 p.m. A challenge.
“I have a problem with it,” said Republican lawyer Lawrence J. Tabas as a ballot is placed in a separate pile. The Contested Ballot pile is small — less than 10 — but so is the margin of victory - 23 - so all things are relative.
The challenge ballots will be reviewed at 9 a.m. tomorrow by Judge Howard F. Riley in a separate room at the Chester County Government Center.
1 p.m. An emergency call for tape to do a minor repair on a torn Royer ballot.
A minute later another challenged ballot is set aside.
1:10 p.m. Louise DiFerdinando, 75, of Berwyn, peers through the small window in the door to the room where workers are busy dissecting the ballots.
She is quick to point out she is “the only member of the public” interested enough to come and watch the process. By a judge’s order, DiFerdinando is not allowed in the room. Instead she must stand and watch from the corridor.
DiFerdinando is used to standing and watching.
“Years ago I was the chairman of the Election Procedures Committee of the Democratic Party of Chester County,” she said. “I never lost interest.”
She used to stand and watch in high heals back when she was younger. Now she wears simple black flats.
“For me it is fun,” said DiFerdinando.
To the trained eye, there are nuances that make it interesting, she says. She has advice for the newbies:
1. Watch as the ballots are placed in piles and listen to the count to make sure they match up.
2. Don’t get too far from the election official counting the ballots.
3. Get a good angle on the action. Even if she was allowed inside, DiFerdinando said prefers her hallway vantage point.
1:36 p.m. A vote is recorded for Mickey Mouse.
2:15 p.m. At another table, the election officials are finished with stacking the ballots into seven piles for East Goshen 6 — one of 29 precincts. And there is one ballot missing. That brings the total number of missing ballots to eight.
Missing ballots.
Contested ballots.
That court-ordered Dec. 26 deadline is starting to look like a tiki bar in the Sahara — a mirage.

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