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Wednesday, 16 January 2019 07:42 pm

Gluttons for punishment – or just happy counting?

They put up with constant loud “bleeps”, the odd paper cut and offensive messages, but Kapiti’s vote counters were back for another year.

wadsworth mugJude Wadsworth (left) and her team of 10 experienced hands (they don’t like to be referred to as “old” hands) have been locked in a room at the Paraparaumu library for a total of 20 days.

Sorting, batching, checking, opening, marking, deciphering, scanning, double scanning and reconciling – as well as picking up the post – they’ll work the hours it takes to keep on top of the job.

“I am very passionate about it and I love it,” says Ms Wadsworth, who is in her second stint as Kapiti Coast District Council electoral officer.

Ms Wadsworth says strict protocols ensure the integrity of the process which includes banning all cell phones from the room – except for hers.

An expected 20,000 voters were expected to return their votes, and all the  envelopes had to be opened in front of a Justice of the Peace, whose job it was to check no one tampers with the votes.

Although discrepancies over illegibility are discussed between Ms Wadsworth and the JP, it is the electoral officer who makes the final call if the number written is actually a 1 and not a 7.

If voters have not ranked the candidates in numerical order, their vote can be invalid under the Single Transferable Voting (STV) system.

For example, if a voter writes 1 to 6 in the boxes but misses out number 3, only the votes for candidates marked 1 and 2 will be counted. If a voter writes number 1 for two candidates, the section is classed as informal – or invalid.

Ms Wadsworth says paper cuts are the least of their worries, it’s their ears that take a pounding from the “beep, beep, beep” of the scanning which can be heard outside the room in the library.

LYNNE MARSHALL: One of the ten volunteers helping to process an expected 20,000 voting papers.

BOXING CLEVER: Lynne Marshall will be helping to process an expected 20,000 voting papers.

Votes are counted using scanning pens, once by one person and again by another.

Ms Wadsworth says some people insert new names and write messages – “dickhead” appeared a few times in the previous election.

“We do have bit of a laugh – we don’t get anything too offensive,” she says.

At noon on Saturday, no more votes could be received – even those pushed under the door.

Ms Wadsworth says it’s impossible to get a feel for who may be ahead until the final buttons are pushed, but she is the first person to know.

The official results were published on the council website and posted on the council window and Paraparaumu library door.

Ms Wadsworth rang the successful candidates like the mayor and councillors before the website was updated.

In 2007, about 53% of eligible Kapiti Coasters returned a vote and Ms Wadsworth expected another good voter response from the over 36,800 vote papers mailed in during September.

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