Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Election SNAFU Q & A

I thought I would respond to some of the comments posted about my entry on problems with voting in the primary.

Its not clear the provisional votes count at all!

I wouldn't worry too much about the provisional ballots being counted. If you are on the registration list, the ballot should be counted. However, the large number of provisional ballots will likely delay the final count by several days because the County will need to verify that you are on the registration list and registered with the appropriate party before counting the ballot. Moreover, they will have to be tabulated by hand.

So - why was Tom Perez's name still on the ballot?

Perez's name was still on the ballot because it was deemed impossible to redo the absentee ballots and reprogram the voting machines in time for the primary. Gansler's campaign worker at my polling place was unhappy about the absence of the promised large signs announcing that Perez was to appear. Unsurprisingly, she also thought it was fine that Perez had been thrown off the ballot and that the Court was undebatably right. She didn't think much of the idea of early voting either.

I think this about sums up the extent of this "disaster": During a morning news conference, many candidates in Montgomery County expressed concern that voters had been disenfranchised. Douglas F. Gansler, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, said that at least 35 people had left his polling place because of long lines

Come on...

While I generally don't like jumping to conclusions or overdramatizing a problem, I think this person is way off base here. First, let's just take Doug Gansler's number at face value. There are 230 or so precincts in Montgomery. If 35 people in each precinct were turned away, over 8000 people couldn't vote during the approved voting hours. Second, the number of people who actually left the polling place is a severe underestimate of the number who wanted to vote but didn't. There were widespread news reports announcing the problems and encouraging people to vote later. As a result, the normal morning election rush basically didn't occur in many places. When the polls are supposed to open at 7AM and aren't really operational until 8:30-9AM (as occurred in two large precincts near me), it is a major problem. Remember that this was affecting not just one or two polling places but most of them.

It is unfair to voters--not to mention candidates who worked hard on their campaigns--that the election is being botched in this manner. Moreover, to the extent that people may vote at higher rates in some areas as a result of the problem, it may alter a few outcomes. Additionally, I personally saw evidence that election judges were having problems operating the new machines for checking in voters as the machine crashed when I went to vote. Some people find the touchscreens confusing as well.