Independent Voters Have Trouble Voting, and Having Their Vote Counted, in the Open Democratic Primary
A Legal Battle Could Be on the Horizon Over 'California's Butterfly Ballot' if Results are Close...
By Brad Friedman on 2/5/2008, 7:58pm PT  

Have been talking to various folks at various mainstream media outlets all day, hoping to help improve their coverage beyond the usual "glitches, hiccups, snags and snafus" reporting, so they might better understand that those are not "glitches", but failures.

My report on Los Angeles County issues for now, promised earlier, will therefore be somewhat truncated for the moment. I'll try to offer more details late night and/or tomorrow when, as the Century Foundation's Election Integrity expert Tova Andrea Wang smartly points out in her article titled "Super Tuesday. And Wednesday, and Thursday": "[M]any of the biggest problems will not be revealed until well after the polls close tonight."

For now, allow me to point out that, or caution, that serious legal issues could come in to play if results of the Democratic primary in the state are close in any way...

For a start, I'll point you to the Los Angeles Times surprisingly good coverage of election integrity issues this afternoon (try to overlook the fact that "Glitches" is the first word in the headline, of course.) The story covers polls where voters couldn't vote, and voters who had to pay for parking before even getting a shot at it.

LA County is the largest county in the nation. It's larger than some two-thirds of the states in the country. There are more than enough votes in this county alone to flip any particular state election.

The most notable problems I'm hearing from folks on the ground here today concern confusion and problems for independent voters --- officially known as "Decline to State" or DTS voters --- who tried to vote in the Democratic Primary, which is open.

There has been a great deal of confusion about what independent, DTS, voters need to do in order to vote --- and have their vote correctly counted --- in the Democratic Primary. There is also a great deal of frustration and confusion from thousands of voters who'd thought they'd registered as independent, only to find they have been assigned as members of the "American Independent" party instead of being DTS. As AI members, they are not allowed to vote in the Dem Primary.

The issue has been made far more complicated by the Registrar's office than it should be. If the results in California for the Dem Primary are in any way close, I predict there could be a whole lot of legal issues here. Hope I'm wrong.

Here's some of the coverage of this confusing issue from the AP:

The Democratic and American Independent party ballots given to independent voters who request them include an extra bubble specifying that the ballot is for that party's primary. The bubble appears before the list of presidential candidates.

If voters fail to mark that spot, the county's scanning machines will not read the selection for president.

Lawyers for the Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign said that violates California election law. The group sent a letter to Los Angeles County officials threatening legal action if the issue isn't addressed before Tuesday's election.

"We did talk to the county, and they admit it's a problem," Courage Campaign chairman Rick Jacobs said. "They just don't seem to know what to do about it."

I've been trying to sort this matter out for the last hour or two with various folks, and it's all clear as mud for the moment. Yet, at the end of the article mentioned above, the new acting LA County registrar goes on to say, incredibly...

"It would almost be counterintuitive for someone to miss," said Dean Logan, the acting county registrar. "We have put this information in voter education materials, and we've provided real clear instructions."

As I say, clear as mud. Yesterday, Max Folmer at Huffington Post called it "California's Butterfly Ballot".

But more on that later as I try to help unpack this particularly confusing issue in a way that will make sense. It's not easy right now. So, more later as needed.

With that, allow me to quickly note that I've lived in the same location in LA County for more than 10 years, but have been forced to vote at at least three different locations over the last four elections under the misdirection of the recently-resigned LA County Registrar of Voters and Diebold cover girl, Conny "Cut and Run" McCormack.

Keeping that in mind, please see the official LA County Registrar's online polling place locator. If you lived at 7095 Hollywood Blvd., how long would it take you to figure out where you were supposed to vote today?

LATE-NIGHT UPDATE: For much more now on the confusion concerning the hundreds of thousands of likely-disenfranchised independent voters in LA County, see this late report...