As the clock ticks towards the date required for final certification of as many as hundreds of thousands of currently uncounted ballots in Los Angeles County --- due to an idiotic, ill-conceived, and possibly illegal scheme by the county's Registrar of Voters --- it is imperative that those ballots be counted immediately.
While the acting Registrar has claimed, incorrectly, that it is "impossible" to accurately determine the intent of the voters on those ballots, he is wrong.
Almost every single uncounted ballot can be counted today with absolutely certainty that the intent of the voter is being accurately recorded.
With current the miscount/error rate of those uncounted ballots --- on which the voter's intent has currently been inaccurately recorded by the optical-scan voting machines as "no vote" --- now standing at 100%, almost every single ballot counted will only lower that rate at best. At worst, in a tiny (almost infinitesimal) percentage of ballots, the current error rate will be not be lowered, though it will not be increased.
Thus, the error rate can be reduced to almost 0% if the Registrar's office will simply begin counting the ballots --- immediately.
Here's what everybody, (including apparently the Registrar!), needs to know about the currently miscounted ballots...
The short background for the "Double Bubble" debacle
In short(ish), working from the very conservative numbers offered by the LA County Registrar's office, at least 170,000 non-partisan (NP), also known as decline-to-state (DTS), voters showed up in the county to vote on Super Tuesday. Of those, at least 100,000 requested to vote in either the Democratic or American Independent Party open primaries as they were welcome to do.
When an NP voter asked to "cross-over" and vote in one of those primaries, the procures required that they be given a paper NP "InkaVote" ballot (a card with only a series of empty numbered bubbles on it), slip that ballot into one of the Dem or AI template booklets in one of the booths, and then select BOTH a Presidential candidate, as well as fill in a second bubble meant to specify --- to the computer optical-scan counting machine --- that the ballot should be tallied as either a Dem or AI vote, depending on which bubble the voter filled in.
If that second bubble wasn't filled in, the computer didn't bother to count the presidential selection on the ballot.
Since the great wisdom of recently-resigned Registrar Conny McCormack determined that both the Dem and AI presidential candidates would be recorded in the same line of bubbles on the same NP ballot, the second bubble had to be filled in, else there would be no way of knowing --- if only looking at the ballot --- which primary, Dem or AI, the NP voter was intending to vote in.
The result has been (again, using the exceedingly conservative numbers of the LA Registrar) some 50,000 NP ballots with a selection for Presidential candidate on it, but no selection for either Dem or AI in that second bubble. Therefore, the machines did not count the Presidential selection on those ballots.
For the moment then, some 50,000 voters in Los Angeles County have had their votes for Presidential candidate currently miscounted. An intended vote for Hillary Clinton, for example, has not been registered as a vote for her. She has lost that vote for the moment, and the voter has been disenfranchised. Needlessly.
Moreover, current acting Registrar Dean Logan is claiming that, due to the fact that the same sets of bubbles were used for both Dem and AI candidates, it's "impossible" to determine with absolute certainty the intent of the voter. But he is wrong. In almost every single case.
The current miscount/error rate for those 50,000 ballots is now at 100%. Thus, any ballot counted at this point will only lower the current miscount/error rate.
Since almost every single one of those ballots can be counted accurately, as per the voter intent, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's an absolute absurdity and outrage that Logan is claiming that none of them can be, as he argued in an absurd report [PDF] delivered to the County's Board of Supervisor's on Monday.
How Do We Know Most Ballots Can be Counted With 100% Accuracy Immediately?
The precinct procedure for handling NP cross-over voters, when they came in and requested to vote in one of the open party primaries, was to cross out the NP next to their name in the poll roster at check-in, and write either DEM or AI next to the crossed out NP in the book.
In almost every single precinct there were zero NP voters who requested to vote in the AI primary.
I'll repeat that another way: If you check the poll rosters in most precincts, you will find that every NP cross-over voter intended to vote in the Democratic primary. Therefore, any NP ballot in that precinct which has a Presidential candidate bubble filled in, can be counted immediately, with 100% certainty, that it was meant as a vote in the Democratic Primary.
For a start, those ballots should be counted immediately, in full, and tallied as part of the official Democratic Party primary count, as the clock is ticking towards the official certification date, just over two weeks from today.
What about precincts in which the poll roster shows some NP-AI crossover voters?
When the poll rosters are checked to see if anybody at the precinct was an NP voter who requested to vote in the AI primary, as mentioned, most such precincts will show zero such voters. How many NP voters do you think bothered to go out to vote on Primary Day in order to vote for a minor candidate in a minor party that almost nobody has ever heard of?
Nonetheless, there may be a few precincts where one or two, or even a handful of NP voters, might have requested to vote AI for some reason.
In those rare (perhaps minuscule) number of cases, there are essentially two choices if one wishes to comply with the California Constitution, which requires that "A voter who casts a vote in an election in accordance with the laws of this State shall have that vote counted," and the California Elections Code which requires that code requirements "shall be liberally construed so that the real will of the electors will not be defeated by any informality or failure to comply with all of the provisions of the law."
Remember, filling in that second bubble is not part of either the law or the elections code, and the requirement to fill it in may even be against the law.
So the two options, in such rare cases, where there happens to be an NP-AI voter or two at a precinct, are as follows:
OPTION 1) Count all NP ballots at the precinct as Democratic votes. Yes, that would disenfranchise a few AI voters, which is not good. Nonetheless, those voters are disenfranchised already if the Registrar continues to refuse to count any of the ballots, as he is currently doing. And, again, counting any ballot at this time would most likely reduce the current 100% error rate that exists now for the currently uncounted ballots.
OPTION 2) Count the ballots as Democratic votes and reduce the count by a proportional number. Though this option requires a bit of fairly simple math to account for a tiny number of AI voters, the county routinely uses such fractional extrapolations in other areas of vote counting. For example, just 1% of ballots are counted by hand for the state-mandated post-election "audit" of ballots, meant to check for accuracy of machine counting. As well, the acknowledged error rate on the optical-scan counters is already some 1% or more. Any errors factored in to the count of NP-DEM ballots, where a small fraction would be reduced proportionately to the tiny number of AI voters, at a rate commensurate with the overall results for each Democratic candidate in that precinct, would still likely be far smaller than the "acceptable" error rate of the county's computerized optical-scan counting machines.
Either option, of course, would reduce the current 100% error rate, to nearly 0%.
[UPDATE 2/16/08: A reader writes in to offer yet one more option as to how to count these ballots in such a way that would ensure that no votes are given to any candidate inaccurately:
Yup. Sounds like that would work! A handful of potential votes for Dem candidates might still go uncounted using this method, but every vote counted would then be ensured as a vote for a Dem candidate.]
As to other elements that can be factored into the already existing error rates, we'll note that many poll workers, thankfully, misunderstood the Registrar's ridiculous scheme and actually handed Dem ballots, instead of NP ballots, to NP voters who asked to vote in the Dem primary. Those ballots, even though they were "erroneously" given to the voters, have already been counted as Democratic Primary votes.
So as it stands now, many NP-Dem cross-over voters --- perhaps hundreds of thousands, since LA County has some 761,000 NP voters registered --- have already had their votes counted "more equally" than all of the others, simply because they were handed Dem ballots, instead of NP ballots.
(Please see the addendum now posted at the end of this article for further details on this, and how the off ice of the Registrar --- who has had the temerity to blame poll workers for this mess! --- issued contradictory information to poll workers about how to handle NP cross-over voter ballots.)
To Review: This is What Must be Done Immediately to Avoid Disenfranchising at least 50,000 LA County Voters
In precincts where the poll roster shows no NP to AI crossover voters, count ALL NP ballots with votes for President on them immediately. There is no legitimate justification for doing anything other than that.
If there are any precincts with NP-AI cross-over voters noted in the poll roster, the NP ballots with presidential votes on them can either be counted in full as Dem ballots immediately, or (the more conservative option) they can all be counted as Dem ballots, and then reduced by a proportional fraction to account for however many NP-AI voters there may have been signed into the precinct, as noted in the poll roster.
To reiterate: We currently have, conservatively, some 50,000 voters who have been disenfranchised. 100% of their ballots have been miscounted. Any counting of those ballots --- even if an infinitesimal number of them are counted contrary to the voters intent --- will only decrease the existing miscounted/error rate for those ballots which now stands at 100% until the acting Registrar of Voters directs that those ballots be counted, as is his legal requirement.
While the clock ticks towards certification day, any delay continues to risk the permanent and inexcusable disenfranchisement of thousands and thousands of voters. That prospect which is wholly unacceptable on any level.
The excuses must stop. Dean Logan must get to work and start counting. NOW.
ADDENDUM: As mentioned above, at some precincts poll workers gave Dem ballots, instead of NP ballots, to NP crossover voters. Those Dem ballots have been counted in the Democratic Primary tally, despite the fact that the procedure was supposed to be for poll workers to give NP voters an NP ballot and direct them to vote on it in the Dem InkaVote booth.
Despite the Registrar's claims to the contrary, the instructions given to poll workers were both confusing and incomplete, and, as we reported in an earlier story on this, did not include clear instructions to direct NP-Dem voters to fill in that second bubble on the NP ballot.
Worse still, as the email just sent from a precinct inspector where poll workers gave out Dem ballots instead of NP ballots details below, the Registrar's office issued contradictory instructions on which type of ballot should be given to NP cross-over voters. All of which makes the suggestions, made by acting Registrar Dean Logan, that poll workers and/or voters were to blame for this mess --- instead of his office, where the blame squarely belongs --- all the more reprehensible.
I'm the inspector that wrote that I used the wrong method for the nonpartisan voters [by giving them Dem ballots, instead of NP ballots]; I just found out that the written instructions given to us were contradictory. One of the clerks that worked with me just dropped off the "Election Guide and Checklist" that was issued to all poll workers at the workshops provided by the County. On page 21 it states:
"Ask all nonpartisan voters if they wish to vote for candidates from either the American Independent or Democratic parties and, if so, cross out the 'NP', in the party column, and enter voter's party preference."
The very next step listed is:
"Announce the party listed for the voter so that the Ballot Clerk can hear and select the correct ballot for the voter."
That means, the County did not intend for the NP voters to receive nonpartisan ballots to take to the Dem or AI booths; but to use either the Dem or AI ballots in the Dem or AI booths. That is the method my poll used.
But on page 23 it states:
"If a nonpartisan voter is voting for American Independent or Democrat, direct them to take their NP ballot to either the AI or Dem party booth."
Did the County want us to give the NP voter the ballot that corresponded to the choice they made (NP or AI or Dem) or were they supposed to receive only the NP ballot? The instructions contradict themselves.