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Nov 21 / Jonathan

Intent of the voter?

Minnesota Public Radio has a few photos of disputed ballots in the Franken-Coleman recount, and asks voters to weigh in on how each voter’s intent should be decided.

Some are fairly obvious:

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This one requires a little more interpretation, but again the voter intent is clear enough to me (though not to an automatic counting machine):

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Here we have a pair of somewhat similar cases. I’d count the first as a vote for Franken (though I’d want to see the rest of the ballot before I decided for sure). The second, though, not so much.

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Have a look for yourself. I’m partial to paper ballots, myself, but here we have an election that will very likely be decided by some very close decisions on interpreting the not-quite-clear intent of a handful of sloppy voters. Some of these could be caught by a machine reader at the polling place, but that’s no help for absentee ballots, and absentee voters can’t get a replacement ballot quite so easily as precinct voters.

Drawing the line at a different point (moving from “intent of the voter” to a more strict requirement to, say, fill in one and only one bubble) doesn’t really help; it just pushes the gray area to another place. And machine marking of paper ballots might help on election day, but it does nothing for absentees.

On the whole, the Minnesota system strikes me as a good one.

One Comment

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  1. David Wainwright / Dec 19 2008

    I find your website informative, since it is the first place where I saw actual examples of disputed ballots. You’re are correct — some dispute ballots are clearly Franken or Coleman votes, and some are not.

    Almost every county in my home state of New Jersey uses electronic voting machines with a paper record. I know that people are afraid of electronic voting, but I think that going to electronic machines nationwide would resolve these issues. The idea that a panel, albeit a seemingly impartial one, must discern the intent of the voter is just absurd.

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