Attorney Jim Huggins is one of four members of the Washington County Board of Elections - two Republican, two Democrat - tasked with overseeing elections for local, state and federal positions and issues.
Today the board and its employees expect to finalize the results of the Nov. 6 general election with a canvass scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m.
Huggins said the board's employees and poll workers do a good job, and he anticipates that this final piece of the 2012 election to go smoothly.
"You're always worried. You're always trying to do what if, what if, what if," he said. "But at the end of the day I was very confident going into the election, I was very confident the day of the election, and I'm very confident when we close the books on this election that we've run a good election."
Huggins was elected to the board by the Washington County Republican Executive Committee to an unexpired term in 2007, then to a full term in 2008 and again this year.
Q: What are the duties of a board of elections member?
Family: Wife, Kim; daughter, Chrissy; son, Nick.
Political affiliation: Republican.
Public service: Washington County Board of Elections since 2006.
A: I think most important is to give the people of Washington County the confidence that the votes are being tabulated correctly in accordance with the law. And I've always thought the board of elections ... is one of the most important functions of government because it's the consent of the governed.
Q: So are the board members the ones back there on Election Night feeding the ballots through the machines?
A: No, but what we're doing is we're making ... beneath that rather broad-based objective there's a lot to running an election - making sure that we're keeping in mind the convenience of the voting locations to the voters, renting out the precinct locations ... making sure that we don't run out of ballots, making sure that the applications for absentee ballots are properly processed, making sure that we have competent hard-working precinct officials. ... And that the procedures are in place, that the ballot is properly designed and printed, that our poll books are properly organized and after the election is over, that the canvass is properly done.
Now the four members of the board of elections don't do all of that. There's a very hard-working staff of two clerks and a director and a deputy director, and then we'll bring in extra help as needed.
Q: How will the canvass being conducted today work?
A: By law, we are not allowed to open any provisional or absentee ballots that are received after Election Day. I think we had (742) provisionals and then we'll have a smattering of absentee ballots that will come in (for 10 days after the election; they are eligible to count if they were postmarked by Nov. 5).
What the staff will be doing is going back and checking those provisionals to see why that voter was marked provisional. Could be... the voter moved; that's usually the major reason for voting a provisional. ... The person could have gone through a name change. They were on the rolls as having a certain name, they get married, for example. They may not be registered to vote. The person could have an out-standing absentee ballot.
Q: How does the board determine whether to accept a provisional ballot?
A: The director and deputy director will say ... these are just examples, for ballots one to 50, the voter was not registered. ... So we would say ballots one to 50 would be rejected because the voter's not registered. Ballots 51 to 200, they had absentee ballots outstanding, but the ballots weren't returned in time. So we'll count those. ... Provisional voters 201-300 did vote their absentee ballots, so we would reject those.
We would break that down category by category, cause by cause, reason by reason until we had gone through all (the) provisional ballots.
Q: The board is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats. Is it difficult to work with individuals from the other party on matters about which many people have strong feelings, often split along party lines?
A: Sometimes (laughs). Although I will say that it is a bipartisan board. It is not a nonpartisan board. ... Dennis Sipe and Tom Cox are the two Democrats and Charlie Wentz is the other Republican, and I would say in all fairness the four board members work very well together, because I think we all have the same objective. And that is to run a fair, transparent election that the voters can have full confidence that the will of the people has been properly tabulated by the board of elections.
Evan Bevins conducted this interview.