There's a strange election result in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. I check back on local politics to see who's winning city council races and the like, but last night when I went to bed there were still no results from Bloomington, despite all the other Indiana races being called.
This morning, the local paper explained why:
On Sunday afternoon, two days before the elections, Judith Smith-Ille, the lone Republican member of the county election board, informed Robbins and board Chairwoman Jan Ellis of Indiana Code 3-12-2-1, titled “Counting of Paper Ballot Votes.”
That law requires hand tallying of paper ballots to be conducted in the polling sites by the polling place inspector and opposite party judge.
In the primaries, paper ballots were transported to the Justice Building to run through a high-speed digital scanner for quick results.
Those paper ballots were digitally scanned. The law is different for hand-counting, and apparently only one person on the election board was aware of it.
Since the state's electronic voting machines were recently decertified, Bloomington decided to use paper ballots to hold this small off-year election with mostly uncontested races.
Judith Smith-Ille, the sole Republican election board member, was the only one aware that the law for counting paper ballots required that they be counted in the precinct, knowledge which she deliberately concealed while she worked with the election board to plan an election which didn't comply with state standards.
Two days before the election, days after election workers were trained, she finally informed the rest of the election board of the law and that she intended to make sure they followed it. The entire vote-counting process would have to be replanned on the spot.
Judith Smith-Ille, the Republican election monitor who was responsible for this fiasco, gave some remarkably candid quotes to the Bloomington Herald-Times which seem to reflect a clear intent to sabotage the election:
“I found out months ago,” Smith-Ille said Tuesday night.
Asked why she didn’t inform her fellow election board members, she said, “They don’t listen to me. ... I speak up all the time. It goes in one ear, out the other. I didn’t want to be responsible for a Class D felony.” So she spoke up, but not until two days before the election.
“I’m a minority, and I don’t get listened to,” she said.
By waiting until two days before the election, after pollworkers were already trained to follow a procedure which would have to be changed, Smith-Ille ensured that the election would be thrown into chaos. She also makes it clear that she intended to achieve this result for petty personal reasons, and the resulting chaos proves that she's entirely wrong about not being listened to.
As the polls closed at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Assembly Hall polling site judge Jim Farber still didn’t realize that he and poll inspector Bryce Smedley wouldn’t simply be counting the ballots for Bloomington Precincts 3, 7 and 17, but would be tallying each vote.
“We were only to count the ballots,” Farber said.
Finally, at 2 a.m., it became clear that the Republicans had succeeded in derailing the election for the night, as Judith Smith-Ille, who is also an election monitor, refused to observe vote counting which couldn't take place without all observers present.
2 a.m. update... Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins ceased counting results because of missing paperwork from some of the precincts. She believes it's sealed in envelopes that she can't open without Republican Judith Smith-Ille from the Monroe County Election Board present.
"This is a mess," she said in the clerk's office.
The really remarkable thing is that the Republicans in Bloomington had nothing whatsoever to gain from this startling aggression. There were no important close elections, mostly uncontested races. The only thing I can think of is that they're attempting to punish any locality that uses paper ballots for any reason, but it seems a bit extreme. More likely, but still incredibly extreme, is that it's simply an attempt to deliver a black eye to Bloomington city government officials, because they are Democrats.
As of now, there are still no results from last night's election in Bloomington. A delay like this is unprecedented in my memory, but the reason for it has a long and ugly history.
11:30 AM PT: Apparently, Judith Smith-Ille's radical anti-voting activism has ruffled some feathers even within her own party. Here is a letter to the editor from Scott Tibbs, a prominent Bloomington conservative activist, excoriating Smith-Ille for trying to make it harder to vote in Bloomington.