Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Counting the votes in California, issues with LA's ballot layout

This AP story by Alison Hoffman explains why California's vote count will likely be delayed, and also the issue that has arisen with the way LA County's Decline-to-State ballot is laid out for those voters who wish to vote in a partisan primary. An image of the ballot layout in question is available from this web site. Excerpts from the AP story are below.

Election officials throughout California worked furiously Monday to count as many early absentee ballots as possible, hoping to get caught up before an expected crush of Election Day ballots that could significantly delay final tallies.

More than 2.2 million mail-in ballots have been returned to registrars' offices. But with more than 3 million outstanding and an expected high turnout at polling places, registrars predicted as much as 25 percent of the overall vote may go uncounted on Election Night.

Voter-outreach groups criticized the ballot in Los Angeles County, saying it could disenfranchise independent voters.

The Democratic and American Independent party ballots given to independent voters who request them include an extra bubble specifying that the ballot is for that party's primary. The bubble appears before the list of presidential candidates.

If voters fail to mark that spot, the county's scanning machines will not read the selection for president.

Lawyers for the Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign said that violates California election law. The group sent a letter to Los Angeles County officials threatening legal action if the issue isn't addressed before Tuesday's election.

"We did talk to the county, and they admit it's a problem," Courage Campaign chairman Rick Jacobs said. "They just don't seem to know what to do about it."

Los Angeles County's top election official said he did not think most voters would skip the required ballot entry. Primary elections in 2004 and 2006 had the same requirement.

"It would almost be counterintuitive for someone to miss," said Dean Logan, the acting county registrar. "We have put this information in voter education materials, and we've provided real clear instructions."

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