Election count may end today 

The painstaking process of hand-counting the ballots cast by San Francisco voters is expected to conclude today, according to the head of The City’s elections department.

A manual recount of 10 percent of polling place precincts — required by the state due to problems with The City’s electronic voting machines — is completed with all 57 precincts counted, but officials are finishing up the required manual recount of 25 percent of absentee ballots delivered to precincts.

Six of the 146 precincts — the required sample — are left to tally, according to John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections for The City.

There are on average 325 ballot cards per absentee precinct, Arntz said.

When the count is complete, officials will compare the hand count with the counts obtained from the counting machines employed by The City to look for any discrepancies, Arntz said.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit last week against Election Systems & Software, the electronic voting machine company, saying that "misrepresentations" and machine problems led California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to impose stringent conditions on The City’s use of its voting machines for this latest election. Bowen has filed a separate suit against ES&S for nearly $15 million.

A report to Bowen on how The City’s machines worked is due Friday, and the election must be certified by Tuesday.

This election, 150,098 voters cast ballots, a 36 percent turnout of registered voters in The City.

And for the first time ever, according to Arntz, absentee voters outnumbered those who went to the polls.

Absentee voters made up 19 percent of the turnout while voters actually turning out on Election Day only made up 17 percent, Arntz said.

The Elections Department has scaled down its operation from 50 people to 30 working 12-hour shifts to get the job done, he said.

"It’s just taking time," he said. "We’re down to the last bit."

dsmith@examiner.com

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