Re: Write In to overt Voting tabulation Fraud

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Wed Apr 16 2008 - 21:50:44 CDT

Ed wrote,

> Wow! Total surprise to me. I'm one of the folks that
> actually read the manual from cover to cover. (Poll
> working can be BORING.) However, maybe it was
> something that they felt only the tabulators needed to know.
Learn something new everyday .... Anyway, I've done a little more research
and have some refinements to what I wrote yesterday on this issue and how
the ideal system would handle these things. I looked up some CA election
law and also talked with my local (Placer County) assistant registrar, Ryan

One of the main things I learned is that the list of qualified write-ins is
finalized only 14 days before Election Day.

[quoting me]
> I believe that in some states, if there is not a qualified
> write-in, no entryfield for a write-in appears on the
> ballot (whether electronic or on paper).
Not sure about all the states, but in CA, there will be a write-in
entryfield in some contests whether or not there is a qualified write-in.
For other types of contests there is never a write-in (e.g., judicial races,
and some local offices). There isn't time to print the ballots while taking
into consideration whether or not there are qualified write-ins. I still
believe (think I heard) that some states have earlier requirements for
write-in qualification so they do have time to take that into consideration
when printing ballots, and write-in entryfields are suppressed when there
are no qualified write-ins.

> My guess is that if you write in a name that is not qualified,
> on an electronic voting machine, you will not get any
> message about your vote not being counted or misspelled ....
This is true (in CA).

> As for misspellings, I suppose that's why there is an option
> for the write-in candidate to list alternate spellings: it's too
> difficult for the system to deal with misspellings so if it's
> not on a list of variations, I'd say an electronic system
> will throw it out. ...
Write-ins are not evaluated electronically (in CA). You can generally
write-in anything on a DRE (where there is an entryfield for it), but the
names are evaluated manually (I think Cameron was wrong about this).
Election officials have a lot of flexibility when it comes to counting or
not counting a write-in, alternate spellings notwithstanding. Ronco
mentioned a case where a locally famous long distance runner had a write-in
campaign going. A voter that wanted to vote for him apparently forgot his
name and put in "the long distance runner." The vote was counted.

> I suppose in some jurisdictions using hand-counted
> hand-marked paper ballots they will try to handle misspelled
> write-ins (or unregistered variants, like M. Jones instead of
> Mary Jones ... the locals might agree the voter meant Mary
> Jones, but this will probably not compute in Chicago)
Seems to be more widely true than I suggested, no matter what mode of
ballot. Write-ins are manually checked.

Here's what I wrote yesterday:
> Voters should be allowed to write-in whatever they want,
> but should be informed when they have written in a name
> that will not be counted, and the voter should be offered
> to see a list of qualified write-ins (from which they can
> select one, if they want). If there are no qualified write-ins,
> the voter would be informed of this after choosing the
> write-in option (i.e., "write-in whatever you want, but it
> won't be counted").
This is basically supported by what I found out today. Ronco agreed that
voters should be allowed to put in anyone they want regardless of whether or
not the candidate is on the list of qualified candidates.

I think if someone wants to write-in their uncle Bob for president, they
should be allowed the spritual joy of doing so even though it should be
clear that the vote won't count. Also, there may be spritual joy in writing
"none of the above." Fine.

Ronco pointed out that there is a law about making a ballot identifiable.
If you write in something that could identify the ballot as yours, your
ballot is spoiled. I think this is the relevant line in the election code:


So, you can't literally write-in anything you want. In practice, I suppose
someone could write-in some sort of code word/names that would go unnoticed
by officials.

In order to include the list of qualified write-ins on the voting machine
software CD, we would have to have this streamlined so that all the testing
was done, and adding the list was the last thing to do before finishing the
CD image files and getting them ready to burn. It would be a tight deadline
but doable, I believe.

The procedure I suggest would be more accurate, and require less manual work
(although not all of the manual work and guess work could be eliminated).
You would enter a valid vote for a write-in candidate by picking from a
list. No need to worry about spelling errors or wondering about whether a
particular individual is a qualified candidate or not.

As for unqualified write-ins, this would be more accurate too. Ronco also
thought it might be good to warn voters, when writing in a non-qualifed
name, to avoid writing anything that could identify the ballot (better
wording needed).

The machine would warn the user that the write-in would not be counted and
would be printed in a manner that would only be readable under a magnifying
glass. Another feature I might add, is that if the voter appeared to be
entering the name of a candidate that was qualified (either a qualified
write-in or a candidate named on the ballot), then the voter would be asked
something like, "do you mean to vote for Bill Smith. If so, please make
your selection in the usual way." (better wording needed).

> Right now, with the summary paper ballot our demo system
> prints, the write-in is simply printed there as the voter's
> selection. I want to make it work like this: We will print the
> unqualified write-in but in such tiny print that it will be
> unreadable except with a magnifying glass. The summary
> paper ballot will indicate something like, "no vote, unqualified
> write-in." That is, we will show the fact graphically: their
> write-in was recorded on the ballot, but the system will not
> pick it up and it will not be counted. Qualified write-ins
> should be handled like any other candidate except their names
> do not appear unless the voter selects the write-in option.
> This way, we don't have to deal with saving the actual text
> written-in by the voter. Also, this will practically eliminate
> the issue of ballot signing.
I think this is okay.

It's important to count every vote, and help the voter know it. We should
not tolerate a system where a voter thinks s/he is casting a valid vote
while, in truth, the vote is being thrown out.

As with other things, some regulatory and legal adjustments may be needed.
All is possible with suffcient will.

Alan D.

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Received on Wed Apr 30 23:17:04 2008

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