Opinion: Voting finished, counting continues

The voting and the political advertising are over but, who knows how long the nationwide count will take?

Our Madera County Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez had this county’s ballots tabulated with an unofficial tally by 11 p.m. election night.

The real fun began for the election staff on Wednesday. More about that later.

I play an interesting part in the county election process. The Associated Press contracts with me to call in the vote tallies to its central office.

The AP describes what I do as: “Instead of relying on crowd-sourcing or vulnerable technology, our 50-state network of local reporters have first-hand knowledge of their territories and trusted relationships with county clerks and other local officials. Our stringers collect the votes and phone them in to vote entry clerks who key in the data. We also gather results from the county and state websites and electronic data feeds. Votes are subject to an intense series of checks and verifications.”

A very special thanks to Madera County Clerk-Recorder Registrar of Voters, Becky Martinez, for her hospitality and continued friendship!

At 8 p.m. on election night, once the polls were officially closed, Madera County Clerk Becky Martinez provided a printout of the votes cast in each race. That first printout typically includes votes by mail and other early voting ballots received prior to election day.

Also, at this time the personnel from the vote centers collect the ballots cast in each of its locations, and these are transported to the Madera County Government Center at 4th and North G streets. Using counting machines, these ballots are tabulated, and an unofficial count is released to the public.

I have been working election night for the AP for about 20 years. I went to work at The Madera Tribune on June 12, 1995. About five or so years later I began as a “Stringer,” for the AP on election night.

Last Saturday the AP conducted a vote tabulation rehearsal. The protocol dictated that between 12:30 and 1 p.m., I call the vote center and report the ballot numbers from the faux ballots provided. Following the instructions, I placed two calls to make sure I knew what to do and the equipment on their end functioned correctly.

My instructions included a note advising me that I could skip the rehearsal, based on my long years of service. Since the AP pays its stringers a small stipend to participate in the rehearsal, I always do my call-ins. Procedures can change from year to year and election to election. If there is a problem, it is much better to discover it during the rehearsal rather than after the polls close on election day.

We are blessed to live in Madera County with an election official as conscientious as Becky Martinez and her staff. To avoid any hint of bias or impropriety, the only ballot Martinez ever touches — holds in her hands in other words — is the one she receives in the mail like every other voter in the county.

Prior to the election, the ballots are stored in a secure location, with video monitoring, under lock and key. Anyone needing access to that room must have two staff members in attendance to enter that room.

As in the past few elections and this election cycle, our county participated in the Secretary of State Voter’s Choice Act. Two vote centers have been operational since October 23, which is 11 days before election day. An additional five vote centers were added.

These five vote centers opened on Halloween. Those votes centers were opened every day, including Saturday and Sunday, through Tuesday, Election Day.

This procedure offered residents ample time to cast their ballots securely through 8 p.m. on Election Day.

As I mentioned, the days and weeks following the election, the Election Office recounts all the ballots, more than once as necessary. This takes place before the final count is certified by the office of Madera County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters and submitted to Secretary of State for approval.

Becky Martinez and I have a long history of friendship. Forgive me if you have read this part of the story before. In the fall of 1959, Becky and I started kindergarten at James Monroe Elementary School. For the next 13 years, we attended elementary, middle and high school together until our graduation in June of 1973.

When she became County Clerk, I was so very proud of my grade school chum. She survived the office burning, twice. She served the county through the building and furnishing of the new Madera County Government Center and been a credit to herself, her parents, her children, her grandchildren and the community at large.

She has served as a Madera Chamber of Commerce ambassador, performed weddings and administered the oath of office for countless government officials, my self, included.

Every four years I must renew my Notary Public commission.

Interestingly enough, the oath of office she administers is the same one given to new recruits entering the military.

In part, it reads “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…”

I have often wondered just how badly a conflict would have to be to have the president call the Notaries to arms.

Madera County’s votes are always safe and secure under the management of this devoted public servant.

Long days and pleasant nights, have a great weekend.

• • •

Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing tamijonix@gmail.com or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

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