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Group vows to collect and post Boston election results in real time on Tuesday night
By adamg on Fri, 10/29/2021 - 4:50pm
On the night of the preliminary, Boston election nerds grew increasingly fidgety and the hours wore on and we knew who was winning the California recall vote even as Boston was still showing no results. Matt McCloskey reports he and other results crunchers have organized to collect info from all of Boston's 255 precincts and to post them as soon as they're posted on a wall at each location.
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Skewed figures. Barometer at best. Posted tally numbers at polling locations are deemed "Preliminary" because it only counts ballots that went through the machine at that site. It does not account for additional provisional ballots.
Large precincts are no longer processing all of the mail-in ballots either as was the case when early voting started. Many of those are now being processed at city hall on their counting machines.
And the mail-in ballots in drop boxes are not collected until 8 pm on election night.
You may get a general estimate but there is a lot of room for things to tilt greatly.
You're not wrong!
These definitely aren't perfect final numbers, I agree 100%. That said, the tabulation machine numbers are generally the best estimate available until the city releases their "Unofficial" numbers later in the evening. It's mostly just a way to share numbers that campaigns have traditionally collected with the public.
It's not quite so simple
Our new initiatives to make it easier for folks to vote also make it more difficult for the Elections Department to come up with final tallies quickly. The ballots received by mail or drop box must be cross-checked against the list of people who voted in person on Election Day to ensure that no one votes twice; mail-in/drop box ballots which match a person who voted at the polls will be discarded before they are opened and tallied.
I don't think this election will be close enough for that to matter for mayor, but it might for the at-large council positions.
I believe what they do is …
… basically as ballots come into drop boxes and the mail during the day, they go to some central processing facility. During the day, they are then delivered to polling locations and tallied during the day (or maybe once all the votes are in). At that point they are cross-referenced; if you voted in person, they are discarded and destroyed.
At 8 o'clock, any late-arriving ballots are carried off to the precincts and tallied there. There probably aren't very many. Once the last ones are received, then the tallies are posted. You are correct that there may be a case when a few arrive late, and a tally might be updated, but this would be a very small number.
This will help us know pretty quickly if there are any too-close-to-call races, which would probably go to a hand recount anyway.
I think it's somewhat discretionary
I think it's somewhat discretionary. I've witnessed it happening during the course of the day, but I think it depends on how busy things are.
already done by campaigns
This is a method that has been used by campaigns so they get an early peek at the results. Obviously, they don't make the information public (it's leaks out if you happen to know someone).
I've often wondered why there was never an independent gathering of the data. Maybe because we've usually received results in a somewhat timely manner, or more timely than we are seeing now.
Don't always have someone at every precinct. They might have people at enough representative ones to get a good idea.
District campaigns probably do (way fewer precincts) but don't aggregate the data.
I think why this is happening now is because the data in the prelim wasn't updated until well into the next day, and people were keeping track on spreadsheets of what could be found on social media. By centralizing it like this, we should have unofficial results pretty quickly if each precinct posts their results.
That's pretty much correct
I've worked with groups, ward committees and campaigns in the past, and talking to people, it just made sense to share numbers, and if sharing, to make them public. This effort is being aided by campaigns and volunteers who have previously done it for campaigns.
This saves campaigns the headache of recruiting volunteers for the whole city, and lets data that is technically public be available more easily.
While these numbers are
The city doesn't even post "official election results" the day after election day. The results remain unofficial until they're certified. But sure, the fact that the city is so reluctant to stream out vote counts until they're final is lousy. "We don't want to confuse people" is often used as an excuse by city officials to withhold details from the public.
The city is correct to wait. If they release data quickly and it needs to be changed a day later, people will accuse them of throwing the race.
Everyone wants to know who won at 8:01pm (myself included) but it makes no difference if it takes a day or several days to verify things before releasing any numbers.
Agreed. Would be happy if no results were released that day.
The only thing a slow rollout of precinct numbers gives you is a lot of content-free emotional rollercoaster news-like product.
You didn't live on the west coast in 1980
That's why you don't stream out live tallies. People won't vote if they think it doesn't matter.
Precinct Clerk here. We've been told to keep the tabulators in the precincts on until at least 8:10PM on Tuesday, for late delivered mail-in and absentee ballots so I think they're trying to get as much into the precinct tabulation as possible. When I worked on campaigns we had to use the precinct returns on election night (and we had to peer at tiny machine counters on multiple machines and add them up). There's a lot of additional work that needs to be done to tabulate provisional ballots and perhaps challenged ballots before you get the final counts so precinct returns are all you can expect on election night. I'm all for people organizing to collect what gets posted at the polls and make it comprehensively available. The Election Dept has to check in 250 or so precincts that night, which seems like a pretty big task in itself so it's great that people are stepping up to do this.
Do you ride a horse and buggy to the precinct?
Look at the calendar. It's 2021. Everything is online now. Time to do the same with voting. It will increase voter turn out. We shouldn't be running elections with 1800's technology.
Presumably you walk
Actually, 1800's technology is right for public elections. Paper ballots properly handled and accounted for is the most transparent and trustworthy election method we have. Counting the ballots efficiently can use technology but you should be able to hand count (and recount) every ballot. Tell me how I should trust a machine in someone else's control count my vote properly?
All the machine that accepts your ballot at the precinct is doing is counting where you made marks. It's pretty accurate but you can hand check if you spend the time to do it. I don't think there's any online method that I would trust for public elections. Organization and group elections are fine online since there's likely a level of trust you can't get with a public election.
Systems are not on line specifically to assure that there is no hack effort to compromise the vote.
There is paper in hand and the tabulating machines have secured memory cards that are pulled downtown to be read and added to the tally total.
Even the state's machines are not connected to the Internet for the same reason. That way it makes it hard to try to hack, but also dispel the fake news mongers that something was hacked.
While it may be ancient the redundancy and security built in assures everything is above board.
There's no way that anything could go wrong if we all voted by internet. Safest, most secure way to get things done.
Magoo’s unconfirmed sources report that Magoo is in the lead by write in ballot. What can Magoo doo for yoo? Magoo.