County Clerk Dee Berman welcomes visitors from now until Election Day

by: JASON CHANEY - Carts full of ballots were wheeled across Court Street from the courthouse to the post office on Friday morning. The ballots were mailed out later that day.

Starting this week, returned ballots for the Primary election will start showing up at the Crook County Clerk’s Office.

For those who want to know what happens to those ballots once they reach the hands of clerk’s office staff, they are happy to give them an inside look.

Starting May 5, Crook County Clerk Dee Berman has invited local residents to visit and check out the different tasks that go into the election process.

Berman said her staff does everything from signature verification for the thousands of ballots to preparing them for counting and eventually running them through a machine that tallies up the votes.

“They are welcome to watch any part of the process they want,” she said.

Of course, sitting in on something as integral to democracy as the election process includes some ground rules. For example, each observer is asked to read an agreement and wear a badge.

“They are only allowed to ask questions of me,” Berman continued. “They can’t interfere in any way.”

In spite of these guidelines, observers are welcome to come any time and ask whatever questions come to mind.

“I have always offered it,” Berman said of such visits. “People are always curious. They don’t realize that we actually verify every signature on every ballot. They just have a lot of questions. They want to just know the process.”

Perhaps more importantly for Berman, the open-door policy gives her the chance to ease any concerns people may harbor about the vote-by-mail process.

“It is an open process,” she said. “Whatever we do is public. If they have concerns, if they have questions, fears about it, I would hope that coming in and watching the process would resolve some of those.”

Berman stressed that the vote-by-mail process is very secure, despite some views to the contrary. She believes that the old system, where people went to polling locations to cast their vote, actually left more possibility for fraud. She noted that voters were not required to furnish identification and could cast a vote for someone else as long as they knew their correct name and address.

As she opens her office for visitors during the next couple weeks, Berman acknowledged that some times might offer more action than others.

“It can be pretty boring at times when the ballots aren’t coming in, so there is not a lot going on during the week,” she said.

However, those eager to see the election night unfold can show up in the early afternoon on Election Day, May 20, and watch clerk’s office staff add up the votes. But be warned -- even that stretch of time includes a lull.

“It gets kind of exciting and pretty hectic at about 2 p.m.,” she said. “Then it kind of dies off and it gets a little bit slow. Then, at about 6 p.m., it gets busy.”

By about 8:15 p.m., the first round of election results are released, and people can find subsequent updates on the county website. Meanwhile, the public invitation remains as the clerk’s office staff continue counting ballots into the late evening.

“Anyone is welcome to come in any time,” Berman said.

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