Re: Left off the ballot?

From: Steve Chessin <steve_dot_chessin_at_sun_dot_com>
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 19:07:30 CDT

>From cems@earthlink.net Tue Apr 13 16:07:30 2004
>Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 16:07:20 -0700 (PDT)
>From: charlie strauss <cems@earthlink.net>
>To: voting-project@lists.sonic.net
>Subject: Re: [voting-project] Left off the ballot?

>Here is what really grabs me about this story. These modern
>touchscreens are, I have read, programmed to prevent undervotes by
>forcing the voter to press the -yes-I-meant-to-not-vote- button. If
>this feature was active in the story above then the machine must have
>cast the vote for voter otherwise it would have been flagged by the
>machines.

It depends on what the jurisdiction has asked for from the vendor.

In Santa Clara County, California (we use the Sequoia EDGE), you only
get the "ARE YOU SURE?" question if you attempt to cast a totally blank
ballot. If you make a choice in even just one contest, you don't get that
question.

However, before you get to the "cast my vote" button, you are presented
with a review screen that lists every contest with your selections. If
you undervoted in a contest, it is displayed in red; the fully voted
contests are displayed in black. (I don't remember how this information
is conveyed in the audio interface.)

But some people may not distinguish red-on-white from black-on-white,
or immediately grasp its significance. We (the Registrar's DRE
Citizens Oversight Committee) have asked the County to improve that
display, by including an on-screen note that says something like
"Selections highlighted in red have not been fully voted. Make sure
that this is your intent before casting your vote", as well as perhaps
using a larger font or adding stars or something to the undervoted
contests.

Of course, the OVC ballot station should do something similar before
the voter gets to the "print my ballot" button. No sense forcing the
voter to wait for the printed ballot before discovering that they've
undervoted. In addition, California limits the number of ballots that
a voter can declare "spoiled". A voter gets three chances to get it
right; after that, they're out of luck. (Section 14288 of
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=elec&group=14001-15000&file=14270-14299).
So you want to give them every opportunity to make sure they've voted
as they intended before the paper ballot is printed.

>Also the story shows another issue County Clerks have pointed out to
>me. County clerks worry that when voters are presented with a
>confirmation summary that they will spot errors they made and, being
>human, blame the machine and become suspicious. Ironically, they are
>more afraid of paper because people will actually READ IT rather than
>just click-through the on-screen confirmation. (This has been pointed
>out to me several times by concern clerks worried about how to actually
>get the voting done in a timely fashion). The problem is that legally
>they cant help the person vote so they cant duplicate the error.

Depends on the jurisdiction. In California, the voter can ask the poll
workers for assistance; they can declare under oath that they are
"unable to mark a ballot" and ask for the assistance of up to two
people (see Section 14282 of
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=elec&group=14001-15000&file=14270-14299).

BTW, I've noticed a (natural) tendency for people (including people on
this list) to assume that whatever features they're used to in their
voting jurisdictions (sample ballots, undervote warnings, provisional
balloting, same day registration, whatever) are universal. That is
decidedly not the case. It definitely varies from state-to-state (and
country-to-country; isn't this list/effort international in scope?),
and can even vary from county-to-county. (For example, our county had
the last-ditch procedure of letting people use the pages of their
sample ballots as ballots in case of total failure; other counties
never thought of that.)

Maybe it would help if people included where they vote in their
signatures.

--Steve
(Mountain View, Santa Clara County, California)
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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:05 2004

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