An archive of the Forum show on KQED last Friday covering the "Double Bubble" fiasco in Los Angeles is available online. Last Thursday, Secretary of State Debra Bowen sent this letter to LA Registrar Dean Logan requesting that he use the pollbook sign-in information to count the decline-to-state votes to the best of his ability. Yesterday's Los Angeles Times featured this story by Richard Paddock which further investigates the situation. Excerpts are below.
Six years ago, Los Angeles County began using a ballot for nonpartisan voters that had a little-noticed design flaw. Confusion over how to mark the ballot, critics say, caused tens of thousands of votes to go uncounted in three elections between 2002 and 2006.
At the time, election officials knew that some votes were not being counted but saw no need to make changes. After all, the missing votes went unnoticed in the three primary elections and no one complained.
That all changed with the Feb. 5 presidential primary.
Just before election day, a grass-roots advocacy group called the Courage Campaign realized that the ballot was defective because it required nonpartisans wanting to vote in a party primary to mark an extra bubble designating which party they were choosing.
Election officials say that a primary is the most complex kind of election. The number of political parties -- six on Feb. 5 -- means a multiplicity of ballots. Crossover voting that allows nonpartisans to vote in certain party primaries can make organizing the vote even more complicated.
"Election officials will tell you they despise these elections," said former L.A. County Registrar Conny McCormack, who retired in January, a month before the vote. "Voters don't understand them, and poll workers don't understand them."
There are other peculiarities about L.A. County's election system that set it apart.
It is the only county in California to use the InkaVote Plus system, in which voters darken bubbles on their ballot with a special InkaVote pen.
The names of the candidates are listed in the "vote recorder" book in the polling booth but are not printed on the ballot itself. The ballot contains only numbers representing the candidates and the bubbles where voters mark their choices.
At first, election officials blamed voters for not reading the instructions carefully.
Paul Drugan, Logan's executive assistant, said election officials had foreseen the problem months earlier and had been educating voters about the requirement. He dismissed the concerns of anxious voters who were worried that their ballots would not count.
"Is it a perfect system?" he asked. "No, it is not. Elections are an imperfect beast."
Since then, the registrar's office has become more contrite.
Logan said the ballot design makes it difficult to determine voters' intent but that his office is investigating ways to count the disqualified votes.