I recently had the opportunity to watch the hand recount of votes in the judicial race between County Judge Ian Richards and candidate Claudia Robinson. It had been a hard fought race, pitting Richards’ political juice and full coffers against Robinson’s outreach efforts, and steady door-knocking. It was a close race, coming right down to the wire, and putting the final votes inside of the margin for a recount. AsI sat watching the manual recount take place, seeing the questionable ballots displayed on the overhead projector, I started to wonder if the manual recount could have been avoided if there were greater competence on the part of both voters and the Supervisor of Election. See if you agree with me…
Just fill in the bubble… On each ballot instructions are generally written containing a very simple, very clear instructional phrase saying something along the lines of “To vote for a candidate, fill in the oval to the left of the candidate’s name. Use a Number 2 pencil or black ink”. These instructions seem straightforward, but as I watched “questionable” ballots displayed by the overhead projector, I felt a stab of frustration at the ineptitude displayed by voters. You can take a look at some of the ballots, and believe me, these were by no means rare mistakes!
I’ll write the name, just to be sure… Some of the problems may be traditional ones. In the past, before the days of Scantron machines and computer read cards, it was common to write down the name of the candidate. Perhaps (though the instructions on the ballot were very clear) this older method of voting was still in mind of certain voters. Or maybe they just REALLY want to be sure:
Forget the instructions, I’ve got a better way… And then there are those voters who are convinced that, regardless of the instructions, THEIR way of filling out the ballot is the correct way:
But I want them ALL!… Whether due to a misunderstanding of the election process, or simple indecision, sometimes a Broward voter just won’t settle for just one choice. In fact they want all of the choices, even some that aren’t on the ballot:
What the heck?… Sometimes there just are no words for a #fail, and only pictures will do – see for yourself:
Are there problems with the Machines? – During the recount I watched as large groups of ballots that seemed perfectly filled out were forced to be manually recounted. Had the recount not been necessary, would these ballots have been counted. The ballots had no visible extra markings or out of place markings – Were those ballots being rejected due to ballot machine error … machines that are supposedly regularly maintained by the SOE? One former elected official in attendance of the recount rightly stated, “If I were a voter whose ballot had been rejected by the machine when I had correctly filled it out, I would be outraged!”
Additionally, there were ballots with a very small mark or dot in one oval or the other- marks that were barely visible to a person, but might be recognized by a ballot machine. Were the marks made by the voter, or by sliding the ballot into it’s envelope, or perhaps at another time? You can decide for yourself on the following pictures:
What’s the Solution?
Given the problems in recent elections, and the suspicion expressed by many in the general public regarding the election/ballot process improvements, it seems obvious that improvement are not just a good suggestion but are a necessity. The photos earlier in the article would indicate that educating voters on how to fill out a ballot would be a great first step. It may also be that the ballot machines are due for a bit more thorough “tune up”. More thorough records of the ballots’ chain of custody (who has the ballots and when during transport and storage) would also seem to be a prudent step. These are things that should occur to a Supervisor of Elections who puts having a valid, accurate election as their primary mission.
At least, that’s the way that I see it – hopefully you do too.