Thursday's ballot recount affirmed the results from Tuesday's Republican primary for the top three county commission candidates headed for the the Nov. 4 general election.

"The same amount of ballots were cast, the outcome was the same" County Clerk Renea Vitto said.

But small differences in the numbers of votes for the individual candidates in the commissioners' and other races underscored a lesson for voters: Fill in the ovals on the ballots, and don't make a mess.

Thursday, as it was Tuesday, Incumbent Rob Hendry received the most votes followed by John Lawson and Steve Schlager.

Todd Murphy again came in fourth.

Tuesday, Schlager edged out Murphy by 78 votes, or 0.3 percent of the total 25,979 votes cast for all nine GOP nine candidates plus write-ins.

Because that was under 1.0 percent, Vitto had to conduct and automatic recount of all 13,211 ballots cast countywide.

General outcomes were the same after the recount, but the numbers of votes for individual candidates were not.

Tuesday, Schlager received 3,532 votes. After Thursday's recount, he received 3,529.

Likewise, Murphy received 3,454 on Tuesday, but 3,453 after the recount.

The new count of 76 votes was two better for Murphy, and cut his original gap to 0.29 percent.

In fact, vote totals changed for nearly all candidates.

But there's nothing nefarious going on, said Vitto and voting machine technician Andrew Burns.

It boils down to how the machine reads at the ovals -- dubbed "target areas" -- you fill in on the ballots, they said.

The machine looks at how much white and how much black is in the target area and has a threshold it measures of how much black is there, Burns said. "If it's black black, compared to the other ones, then it it says 'okay, that's voted for.'"

But the machine can be thrown off by unclear marks, and kick out the ballot for further inspection for a variety of reasons:

  • A pen runs out of ink, starting black then fading.
  • Not fully filling in the oval.
  • Drawing a check mark in the oval.
  • Drawing an X through the oval.
  • Circling the entire candidates name.
  • Spilling coffee on the ballot.

Then there's the ewwww factor.

"The first cycle I worked, there was like chocolate or blood or something," Burns said.

The machines are good, but they can't always tell, and that will result in minor differences in vote counts.

Fortunately, most people follow the instructions posted in the voting booths and fill in the ovals correctly so the totals are similar.

"If you vote correctly, your vote will be tabulated correctly," Burns said.