February 12, 2005
Taylor still in denial
Let me just say that it's a good thing I wasn't eating when I stumbled across Andy Taylor's op-ed on "voting irregularities" in today's Chron. It's as bad, as self-serving, and as disingenuous as you'd expect from Taylor. Greg has already done the heavy lifting here, so I'll leave you to that. One thing I do want to expand on:
To protect our democratic process and the vote of citizens who have ambiguous or disputed registrations, local officials should be allowed to use "provisional ballots" that can be easily added to or eliminated from vote tallies after investigations occur. Right now, votes can only be removed under the umbrella of an election challenge and the burden of proof for determining who loses — or gains — the votes is almost impossible to meet. In fact, a determination can only be attempted by legal deposition and as my client learned, most voters simply cannot remember with absolute certainty who they voted for.
The genius of provisional balloting is that once a determination is made that a vote may be illegal, it can be retrieved electronically and an accurate determination of whether that vote should count in an election and for whom, can be quickly made. If an out-of-county voter demands the right to vote, they can be allowed to vote but a retrieval code in place of the voter's name determines exactly how that vote should be handled.
Left unanswered is the question of whose ballots would be provisional here. As Greg notes, there's already an allowance for such a thing. What kind of an expansion on this is Taylor calling for? Is he suggesting that we'd be better off if ballots in general were not secret? I don't know about you, but I don't like that idea at all.
Greg Moses of the Texas Civil Rights Review picks up on this as well and explores the contrast between Kristin Mack's column on Taylor and the Chron's editorial stance on the whole matter. Check it out.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 12, 2005 to Election 2004
Let's talk about provisional ballots for a minute. During this year's early voting period, I worked the "solutions desk" at the most-popular (and highly Republican) early voting location in Dallas County. Every single day, I had over 10 provisional ballots (out of 2,000 to 3,000 cast), with a high of over 25. I'm told that a little under half of them ended up being counted.
The irony is that, because I was able to get through on the phone to the elections department to resolve problems, at least that many provisional ballots were avoided, and the voters allowed to cast regular votes. What were these problems? Voters erroneously declared dead, voters who had purportedly requested mailin ballots, and voters who had purportedly moved out of the county (or even the country) since the last election. None of these people would have appeared on their local precinct rolls, and all would have had to cast provisional ballots, when all were, in truth, legal voters.
On election day itself, my own (2:1 Democratic) precinct had about 25 provisional ballots out of 1500 cast. This despite the fact that I spent the entire day on the telephone attempting to resolve issues, but was often unable even to get through to the Elections Department. Of those ballots, less than a third were counted.