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One-fifth of Snohomish votes projected to be disqualified this primary

Seattle PI reports, in an article of this morning entitled One-fifth of Snohomish County ballots may be disqualified, that a test run of votes already cast by mail show about one-fifth of the voters are failing to indicate party preference.

On these ballots, votes for partisan races will not be counted -- and the voters will never know that their votes fell into a hole in the system -- unless, of course, they purposefully failed to indicate party preference as a protest.

And that is likely to be part of this.  There indeed are some pissed-off voters out there who feel deprived of choice by being forced to choose a party preference.  But probably the much larger proportion of error is attributable to voters not reading the directions.  In our new 100% vote-by-mail regime, this kind of forgetfulness is much more likely to go unchecked.   Touch-screen machines would not accept these ballots without a party preference indicated.  And people voting at the polls are in a place where they are dedicated to the act of voting and have the ability to ask questions of trained helpers.

Understanding the meaning of this number would require knowing what level of error Snohomish County had last election regarding party preference.  

I just called the Snohomish County Elections Auditor, and they said they don't keep those records -- they don't know how many people messed up last time by not indicating party preference.  Could that be true?  Isn't it state law that such basic statistics must be kept?

Voter error in filling out ballots is surprisingly high.  Seattle Times reported last year that King County elections officials ended up 'correcting' by hand one out of every 12 ballots -- as the vote counting machines could not accept them as filled out.  The same article noted that Pierce County has an error rate of about 5% and Kitsap County an error rate of 10-12  percent. ( Many ballots are redone before they're counted).  

Clearly, every hurdle added to voting -- less availability of polling places, requirement to choose  a party, etc. -- adds to the error rate.  

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... or that you didn't ask the right question... government is like that.

They probably don't know how many people "messed up", but the canvass should include undervote or overvote... or if it doesn't than there should at least be a discrepancy between votes cast and ballots counted.

In King County, the Party preference shows up in the canvass as a race. That being said, people who undervoted or overvoted on the preference will not show up as under- or over- voted on the partisan races.

I don't have time this week or next (a day job and an election to run), but if you want me to follow up the week after that then get in touch with me.

by m3047 on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:38:28 PM PST

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As a former quality assurance manager, I have nothing but praise for forced mail voting. It appears to be a system purposefully designed to introduce errors. Enough errors to keep people like me busy full-time! Woot!

by zappini on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 07:42:33 AM PST

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As a long-term permanent absentee voter in Kitsap, who is being joined now by the masses with forced mail balloting, I have become a big proponent of the advantages of mail-in voting, but recognize its drawbacks as well.

It seems to me that for mail-in ballots with our current system it would make sense for the computers tallying the votes to ONLY REQUIRE that EITHER the voter mark the party choice OR that partisan votes be marked only in one of the two parties' primaries.  That way as long as someone doesn't mark their ballots for candidates of two parties, then the Dem vs Rep choice wouldn't be required.  Voters who DO mark the party choice can be assured that their votes in that party's primary will count even if they accidentally vote for a candidate of the other party.  It might serve to make some independent types somewhat less annoyed with the system, and it would certainly better register the intent of voters who simply miss the current requirement for marking party choice.

The downside of this system is that it is complicated to explain, but someone out there could do a better job of it than I just did, and fewer votes would be accidentally missed.  An automated voting machine, of course solves this particular problem more completely, but I far prefer the advantages of being able to do any research about candidates or issues after obtaining my actual ballot which is lost to day of election voting booth voters.

by walker on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 03:43:56 PM PST

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I suspect ( and hope ) that Democrats can follow simple directions and make thier vote count. If Republicans cannot follow 4th grade instructions all the better. Perhaps this is a "voter IQ Poll tax" so be it....jeff

by godlesstreehugger on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 10:36:42 PM PST

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  • Hmmm by zappini, 09/16/2006 03:07:57 PM PST (5.00 / 2)
that the vast majority of the "mistakes" were actually protests against picking a ballot with the balance being people who tried to vote in both primaries. Having to choose a party pissed a lot of people off.

I'm not sure how much more clear and simple the ballot can be.

by sugarfree on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 11:14:51 AM PST

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  And post it, there are several options avaliable, and therefore many ways to be confusing.
  In Whitman County, we (the Auditor) decided to waste paper and use the least confusing choice. I have three ballots to choose from and there is only one way to screw up. That would be returning more that one ballot.
  But, then there is the signature verification, which our Auditor seems particularly unable to do well!

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Sat Sep 16, 2006 at 09:11:35 PM PST

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Oh.. my.. god. Looking at the results on http://www.metrokc.gov/elections/200609/resPage1.htm just for the ballots cast I see 11.66% with 99.49% of precincts counted.

"One-fifth.. disqualified"? Anything can happen with turnout numbers that low.

BUT KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL, FOLKS:

Lesseee, looks like them thar Democrats got over 70% of them thar votes... kicking butt with a rousing endorsement by a whopping 7.3% of the possible voters. But those numbers are not final, I'm sure they're bound to increase drastically as the last 0.51% of the precincts are counted.

by m3047 on Wed Sep 20, 2006 at 01:41:48 PM PST

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