Primary tally done

outcome stays the same

Glitch forced some to cast provisional ballots

September 24, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,sun reporter

The final tally from Harford's Sept. 12 primary included 1,012 absentee and 526 provisional ballots, all counted within the past 10 days. Those votes did not alter outcomes in an election that drew less than 30 percent of the county's nearly 117,000 registered voters.

"These ballots usually run parallel to voting in the election," said Kim Atkins, Harford's interim director of elections.

Still, when Atkins and the election board met last week to review the provisional ballots, one resident wanted to make certain her vote counted.

Nellie Lisanti of Havre de Grace spent the better part of the day watching and taking notes as the elections staff tallied votes.

"I am 82, and have never missed an election," she said. "This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me. I had to make sure my vote is counted."

Atkins expected the count to take several hours. Lisanti and her daughter Mary Ann Lisanti, the Democratic nominee for District F on the County Council, arrived about 10 a.m., prepared to stay until 5 p.m.

"It's a good thing that they have soft seats and maybe they should do lunch," said Mary Ann Lisanti. "I can't believe this happened. My mother has been a registered voter all the way back. You would think we could get this process right."

A computer glitch in the electronic poll book forced Nellie Lisanti and 36 others countywide to cast provisional ballots. Just as she put her card into the machine on Sept. 12, it shut down and automatically rebooted.

"Then it said that I had already voted," said Lisanti.

Russell D. Stansbury, election board member, assured his longtime friend that every vote counts. His wife, Mildred Stansbury, lost a countywide election for the House of Delegates several decades ago by less than 150 votes.

"That's why I am on the Board of Elections," Stansbury said.

Atkins produced a stack of 37 provisional ballots, with Nellie Lisanti's on top. The election board certified all 37 ballots.

"With the old machines, it was better," Lisanti said.

The process should run smoothly in November, Atkins said. She has scheduled retraining for judges and is recruiting high school and college students to assist. They will receive the same training as the judges.

"These kids can get up to speed quickly, and they are really confident with the technology," Atkins said.

About 200 students worked in the 2004 election and proved invaluable, she said.

She also has organized a "gripe session" for judges Tuesday evening, hoping to hear complaints about what happened and suggestions for improvements. Overall, most judges have said the new machines worked well, Atkins said.

Few others, besides the Lisantis, were concerned with the outcome. Incumbent Del. Susan K. McComas, who won the Republican nomination in District 35B by a margin of about 75 percent, watched out of curiosity.

"This count won't affect my race, but I wanted to see the mechanics," she said.

Joe Price, Republican candidate for sheriff, trailed the leader by less than 100 votes out of about 13,000 cast and thought the provisional and absentee ballots might help him catch up.

"It really could go either way," Price said. "I will wait until the last vote is counted and all the voters have spoken."

Norman R. Cochran maintained his narrow lead and won the Republican nomination for sheriff.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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