There was a bit of trouble across Illinois polls today, as some of the paper ballots in about 25 different counties, according to the Chicago Tribune, had been cut too wide to fit into the Diebold AccuVote precinct-based op-scanners.
Officials spent the day in panic, reprinting ballots with on-demand ballot printing systems, where available, and otherwise finding paper cutters to trim about one-eighth of an inch off the edge off the ballots that were said to have been cut incorrectly by two different printing companies.
The Washington Post reported the problems as "widespread" earlier today, but by mid-afternoon, officials were downplaying concerns, saying that they'd been able to get out new ballots to affected locations.
Most ballots that could not be trimmed will reportedly be hand-counted in the presence of officials from both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
Some ballot, however, will be "remade", incredibly enough, according to the Tribune, "under the supervision of representatives of each party." That means that some human being will actually copy votes from one ballot, by hand, onto another, so they can then run the "remade" ballot through an optical-scanner. (Never mind how much more time that takes --- and how votes can be changed in the process --- than simply counting those ballots by hand in the first place.)...
When the problem emerged earlier this morning, according to this Rightwing website, which seems to have been among the first to report the problem today (though it appears they may have overstated the problem as occurring in 65, rather than 25 counties), some county clerks were instructing precincts to have voters use the 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems that most Illinois precincts have on hand for optional use by disabled voters.
If reported results are delayed tonight (polls close at 7pm CT, even as we write this), delays due to the need to unexpectedly hand-count paper ballots could be why.
Had they simply hand-counted paper ballots, at each precinct, at the close of polls, in front of all parties, video-cameras and anyone from the public who wished to watch, and posted the results at the polling place before moving ballots anywhere, today's ballot nightmare could have been avoided. Questions about the accuracy of secret, unverified ballot tabulation by computer systems could have been avoided as well.
But, ya know, give 'em an eighth of an inch, and they'll take a paper cutter, a mile and millions of unnecessary tax-payer dollars to do the job our eyeballs could have done better, more efficiently, and much more transparently.
UPDATE: We asked Melisa Urda, Co-Chair of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, a non-partisan election integrity watchdog group, for comment on today's ballot mess. She responded with several thoughts via email tonight. Here are the main ones for now...
1. This failure invalidates the Logic and Accuracy tests conducted prior to the election not just in DuPage County but across the state. Why wasn't this failure caught by testing the same type of ballots which were to be used on Election Day? A re-evaluation of the validity of pre-election tests and election day problems at minimum is in order.
2. In some precincts in DuPage, where optical scan machines would not count the mis-sized ballots, many voters used the Diebold touchscreen machines instead--the same machines that were hacked by Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in September of 2011.
3. According to an election judge at the Longwood School in Naperville (Poll ID 300) the problems occurred as early as 6am when the election commenced, and were ongoing until 4pm when the correctly sized ballots were finally delivered. The vote choices on the mis-sized ballots were then marked on the new ballots and fed into the optical scan machines.
The first point raised seems the most immediate. "Logic and Accuracy tests" are supposed to be done prior to elections with stacks of test ballots to make sure each machine is working as it is supposed to. But, it seems, nobody did the L&A tests with the actual ballots that were printed by the printers this year? Or, if so, somehow the problem escaped notice in all 25 counties where the L&A tests were supposedly run? One of those two points seems to be true. Neither is particularly encouraging.
We are very lucky this happened during a GOP primary, as opposed to the general election on November 6th. All hell would have broken loose across the state --- and perhaps even the country.