Secretary of State witnesses Jones Co. post-election audit

On Friday, June 10, Secretary of State Paul Pate stopped at the Jones County Courthouse to witness the post-election audit. Auditor Whitney Hein administers the oath of office before the audit board performs its duties. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Hein cuts open the sealed ballots from the randomly selected precinct as Administrative Deputy Ashley Kurt looks on.

Elections Deputy Michele Lubben counts a portion of the 670 ballots by hand during the post-election audit, June 10.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Secretary of State Paul Pate spent some time in Jones County on Friday, June 10, to witness the post-election audit process, following the June 7 Primary Election. The audit took place at the Jones County Courthouse.

   During a post-election audit, county election officials hand-count the ballots from a randomly selected precinct. The goal is to make sure the number of ballots reported by the voting tabular on Election Day from that precinct matches the hand count. Post-election audits take place in all 99 counties after every election, whether that be a primary, general, or special election.

   With 14 precincts in Jones County, the precinct selected for a recount was Monticello Ward 2. Multiple city wards and townships all vote at this combined location.

   "When that happens," noted County Auditor Whitney Hein, "we audit all of the precincts that are temporarily combined."

   That meant the audit board members had to recount 670 ballots, which included Monticello Wards 1-4, and Castle Grove, Lovell, and Wayne townships.

   Those participating in the audit included poll workers Lyle Theisen, Dianne Haag, Deanna Butterworth, and Sue VonBehren. The audit board must maintain a bi-partisan balance.

   "Usually it's three people, but we have four because of the number of ballots," Hein said of the re-count.

   Other than Hein, Elections Deputy Michele Lubben and Administrative Deputy Ashley Kurt also took part in the audit.

   First, the county officials looked over the two sealed bags of ballots that the poll workers signed on election night.

   "We need to make sure these were not tampered with since then," explained Hein.

   The county officials and audit board all looked over the sealed bags before signing off.

   Then, Hein, Lubben and Kurt hand-counted each ballot first before handing them over to the election officials. Following their first count, they were two ballots off.

   "There is always human error and 670 ballots are a lot," commented Hein.

   After the re-count, the numbers matched.

   Following the audit board's count, they also came up with 670 ballots, which matched the count on the tabulator that was printed out on election night.

   Aside from counting the ballots, the audit board also had to verify and re-count the votes for the race of U.S. Senate, both the Republican and Democratic votes. This entailed separating the ballots by political party. Again, the votes added up.

   Aside from the audit, Hein said the county implements many procedures when it comes to checking and double-checking election equipment and processes.

   "Testing equipment before an election is a very important process, " Hein said. "As a smaller county, we spend well over 100 manhours testing equipment for the elections. It's a very tedious, time-consuming process, but for a good reason."

   Hein said her staff is double-checking everything when it comes to any election.

   "It's all about checks and balances," she said. "We spend multiple days and bring in multiple people in here for testing. On Election Day, all of our equipment is sealed with security seals. There are verification steps in place. We record seal numbers for the poll workers when they open up and see that seal number for the day. They can verify that it's the correct number."

   The regulations don't stop there.

   "All of our staffing is party-balanced," continued Hein. "We use bi-partisan teams for curbside voting. We designate a bi-partisan team on election day so we can do everything as fair as possible."

   In fact, even as COVID restrictions have loosened up, curbside voting is still a popular alternative for some.

   "We did see an uptick in this election," shared Hein.

   Her office also offered healthcare facility voting during the primary. Bi-partisan poll workers travel to the care centers to help residents with voting.

   "Whitney's job and my job is to ensure that you're a successful voter," said Pate. "We give you every opportunity to vote."

   Pate said it's crazy how misinformation has spread in Iowa when it comes to voter integrity.

   "It's frustrating," he said.

   He praised the 10,000 poll workers, saying they don't get enough credit for assisting in the election process and making sure everything is done properly and legally.

   "I encourage more people to volunteer to be poll workers," he urged. "It puts them on the other side of the rope to see how it's done. They know first-hand."


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