Ballots buzzing in Douglas County

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Deep inside the Douglas County elections headquarters, a high-pitched buzzing sound rang through the ballot-counting room multiple times every second Friday, Nov. 1.

The sound was the ballot-sorting machine cutting open the envelopes containing the decisions of county voters.

The Friday before the Nov. 5 election the whole headquarters buzzed with anticipation as new workers were sworn in, existing helpers organized ballots and media representatives snapped photos of the process.

As of Saturday, Nov. 2, more than 53,100 ballots had been returned of the nearly 260,000 registered voters. So far, this election is tracking similarly to the coordinated elections of 2017 and 2015, according to county election data.

The sorting machine, which has the capacity to process 18,000 ballots per hour, completes multiple steps of the operation. First, a high-speed photo is taken of the signature on the outside and then checked with a database to ensure its validity. Then, the thickness of the envelope is measured to guarantee there is only one ballot inside.

After both of these are checked along with other factors, the machine sorts the envelopes based on whether or not they can be counted. If a signature doesn't match or a ballot comes in from a different county, they are removed from the stack and placed elsewhere.

After coming out of the sorting machine, they are opened and then counted by a different machine.

The Nov. 5 election will decide multiple items in Douglas County including school board members and whether a portion of sales taxes will be reallocated to road improvements.

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