But the Good News: Provisional Ballots, Newly Discovered as Uncounted, as Reported by The BRAD BLOG on Friday, Were Ultimately Counted...by Hand!
Joint Legislative Hearing on 'Double Bubble' and Other Super Tuesday Problems to be Held on Friday in Los Angeles...
By Brad Friedman on 3/4/2008, 1:37pm PT  

As we wait for the next round of thousands of disenfranchised voters to emerge from OH, TX, VT, RI, or beyond, Los Angeles County has finally finished counting its infamously disastrous "Double Bubble" ballots from the Feb. 5th Super Tuesday Primary in California.

The final numbers, in just in time to meet today's local certification deadline, are supposed to hearten us because the county Registrar's office chose to not count only some 12,000 valid, legally cast votes in the state's open Democratic Primary.

What a victory! It's kinda like celebrating the great success of the troop "surge" in Iraq where "coalition" fatalities have plummeted from pre-surge levels of 2.39 dead troops per day all the way down to 2.37 dead troops per day.

As we predicted, many of the districts counted resulted in very lopsided results. That was likely due to the horrible, unfair counting scheme the Registrar's office decided to use. The scheme disproportionately, and almost randomly, tossed out thousands of votes for some candidates, but tallied all of those for others --- even when they were all cast in the very same precinct, by the very exact same method. According to the results of this "supplemental count," as posted at the Registrar's website [PDF], it looks like our fears have come to pass in that department as well.

But there is a bit of actual good news in all of this, small comfort though it may be. Our concerns about the newly discovered uncounted provisional "Double Bubble" ballots, that we reported on Friday, were heard, even if our other concerns --- as attributed to us by name in today's Whittier Daily News coverage of the final tabulation --- were summarily dismissed by acting Registrar Dean Logan for unspecified "legal" reasons, according to that news report...

In the Whittier Daily News, Alison Hewitt reports on the results of the final tally of some of the approximately 59,000 previously uncounted ballots which Logan deemed to count over the weekend. He had originally said that all of those ballots were "impossible" to interpret, due to previous Registrar Conny McCormack's irresponsible ballot design, which required Non-Partisan voters who wished to vote in the open Democratic or American Independent party primaries to fill in a second bubble on the ballot to specify which of those parties the ballot should be counted for.

Hewitt quotes The BRAD BLOG in her report, and manages to get a non-response response from Logan --- something we were unable to get ourselves, since none of the multiple calls to him and his office over the last several weeks were ever returned --- about the counting plan we'd proffered. Our suggest plan would have counted nearly every one of those previously uncounted ballots, legally, 100% accurately and as per the state Constitution which quaintly requires: "A voter who casts a vote in an election in accordance with the laws of this State shall have that vote counted."

From today's Daily News...

[V]oting rights blogger Brad Friedman criticized the final count by saying the thousands of voters were disenfranchised because their votes went uncounted. He proposed all the double-bubble votes be counted as Democratic votes, "with the number of unaccounted-for (nonpartisan American Independent) votes in any precinct then being subtracted from each candidate's total."

Logan said that did not appear to be legal.

No more specifics were offered, by Hewitt, concerning Logan's response. But we suspect he didn't offer many more details about what didn't "appear to be legal" about our suggested method.

Had he gone into the legal basis for his claim, if there are any, we suspect he would have tripped up on the fact that the scheme he did use to count some of the previously uncounted Democratic Presidential Primary votes would likely have been laughed out of court, had anybody bothered to take it there.

Logan's bad scheme counted thousands of votes for some candidates, while simply discarding thousands of votes for other candidates, in the very same precincts, simply because some of the candidates had the bad luck of being placed in a particular ballot position that was also used by American Independent Party candidates --- all by McCormack's ridiculous design.

While Logan decided to randomly disenfranchise some 12,000 county voters, at least he seems to have paid attention to the concerns we expressed here on Friday, after it was discovered that a guesstimated 10 to 15,000 "Double Bubble" provisional ballots would have also gone uncounted by the woefully inequitable scheme he'd devised.

Thankfully, Logan reportedly allowed those provisional ballots to be hand-counted, as local Election Integrity advocate Judy Alter of ProtectCaliforniaBallots.org, had originally suggested in our Friday article, after she had discovered the additional, uncounted ballots that Logan's plan wouldn't have bothered to tally.

A lawsuit and/or recount could still be in the offing, if any of the candidates decides to pursue the matter. Legal experts we've consulted with have suggested there would certainly be fertile grounds here. Though whether any of the candidates actually wishes to come up with the thousands of dollars such a suit would likely cost --- in hopes of forcing the county to do the job that it's already been paid to do by taxpayers --- is another matter.

While the ballots that Logan bothered to ultimately add to the finally tally don't appear to have changed the overall delegate counts for L.A. County, thousands and thousands of voters were needlessly --- and we'd argue, illegally --- disenfranchised by the public officials who are paid to run their elections. (Our elections, since we also happen to be an L.A. County voter.)

In American elections, however, it seems that final horse race results --- whatever officials decide they are allowed to be --- are far more important than ensuring that every voice in an allegedly democratic system, has actually been heard.

The final numbers from Dean's "Supplemental Count" of the "Double Bubble" ballots have now been posted here [PDF].

Unfortunately, unlike all the other results from L.A. County [PDF], the "supplemental" tallies are posted only by Congressional District, not by precinct, so the specific numbers of ballots which were thrown away wholesale, are impossible to see.

Where the final "supplemental" totals (Clinton 51%, Obama 42%) are reportedly in line-ish with all of the previously reported results for the entire county (Clinton 55%, Obama 41%), various Congressional District results from the "supplemental count" are way of proportion from that.

For example, while some of the CD results are in line with the overall totals, most are proportionally out of whack. Here's just a few to give you an idea...

29th CD: Clinton 59%, Obama 24%
31th CD: Clinton 68%, Obama 26%
34th CD: Clinton 61%, Obama 31%
35th CD: Clinton 27%, Obama 67%
36th CD: Clinton 62%, Obama 31%

Of course, there could be perfectly legitimate reasons for such imbalanced numbers, in an otherwise close overall election. The more likely reason, however, for the imbalance is that Logan chose to simply toss out votes for any candidate listed on the #8 to #10 bubbles in most precincts (if there were any Non-Partisan voters who chose to vote in the American Independent Primary in that precinct, since that party was assigned the same bubbles for its own candidates), while choosing to count the votes for any Democratic candidate who happened to have the good luck of being assigned the #11 to #15 bubble on the ballot.

Ballot position was supposedly randomly rotated by Congressional District. The Registrar's web page, however, fails to report the rotation. Nor does it report the raw, precinct-by-precinct numbers from the "supplement count," where we might see a few hundred votes tallied for Obama, for example, with zero votes for Clinton recorded in the same precinct. So we are left with the above, and whatever speculation may ensue.

Heckuva job, Logan.

Post-Script: There will be a "joint informational hearing," held by a number of committees from the State Legislature, on "Problems Faced by Voters," this Friday in Los Angeles at 1pm (Ronald Reagan State Building Auditorium, 300 South Spring Street). Testimony is to be taken from the public on the "Double Bubble" issue and other related matters.

Scheduled official witnesses include the "Double Bubble" ballot designer, former Registrar Conny McCormack, who quit her job just one month before the election, then claimed disingenuously after the election that this was all "an unfortunate, unanticipated result," which "no one could have predicted," even though she knew full well about the problem, as it had previously disenfranchised 40% of Non-Partisan county voters in several past elections. Acting Registrar Dean Logan and Secretary of State Debra Bowen are also scheduled to testify, as well as others.

The BRAD BLOG has not been asked to testify, though we will try to get to the hearing, if possible, while we're still here in L.A. We are scheduled to hit the road on or about the same date, so whether we can get there ourselves in person is still in question. We shall see.