Ballot Design Hogwash

Subject: Ballot Design Hogwash
From: Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2000 07:26:22 -0800

OK, folks, I've sat back and listened to all the theory about the ballot
design in Palm Beach County Fla. One of the things TWs are supposed
to do is get the facts before they write knowledgeably about a
subject. Most of you who have responded with criticism of the
ballot design do not pass that basic test of competence.

What is involved in Palm Beach is a damned if you do, damned
if you don't design problem.

1. Each county in Fla picks its own way to tabulate votes. Some counties
still use paper ballots tabulated by hand. The rest use various types of
automated or semi-automated vote tabulating equipment. All counties
do not use the same equipment, but the equipment must be certified
as acceptable to the state before it can be purchased.

2. The state law regarding ballot layout states that candidates' names
must be listed to the left, with the marking spot to the right. That
provision was written when all counties used hand tabulated paper
ballots. When vote tabulating machines were introduced, an
additional provision was incorporated, stating that those counties
who use vote tabulating equipment shall conform to the paper
ballot requirements "as much as is practicable."

3. Palm Beach uses tabulating equipment that severely limits the
height of the voting page, necessitating a multi-page
ballot in which each page (usually) is for a single office.
Thus, when there are many candidates running, a two-column
page design is required, with candidates listed in both columns.
This is the so-called butterfly design, where the punch holes are down
the center of the page with alternating holes for the
candidates listed in the two columns.The alternative is that two pages
would be required to list candidates for the same office,
which would be totally unacceptable.

This butterfly design is used by counties throughout the country
which have that particular type of vote tabulating equipment.
For example, Chicago used it this year. The same ballot
design was used in Palm Beach in 1996. The design
does not violate the Florida law, as proven by the fact that
it has been used many times before in various Florida counties.
In other words, given the limitations, this design passes the
"as much as is practicable" test.

4. The elected Election Supervisor (a Democrat) in Palm Beach
has explained that she chose the butterfly design because the
alternative would have been to list all the candidates in a single
column, in which case (because of the height constraint)
the type would have had to be much smaller. She chose
the butterfly design specifically to help the elderly, who
had complained in the past about having
difficulty reading the smaller type in the (often) poorly lit
voting booth. The design of the ballot was approved by the
Gore and Bush campaign representatives. It's design
was also published in a notice in the local newspapers,
inviting comments. Sample ballots were mailed to all
registered voters. All of these things were done well in
advance of the election. Not a single complaint was
received before the election.

5. The people you've seen on television who are complaining
keep insisting that "no one" in the county would vote
for Pat Buchanan, thus the 3400 votes he received must
have been a mistake. Yet, in the 1996 Republican Primary,
Buchanan received 9,000 votes in Palm Beach, even though
the population was less then, and the voter turnout in a
primary is much lower. There are about 20,000 registered voters in
Palm Beach who are affiliated with the three splinter parties
that were formerly the Reform Party which Buchanan now
heads The total registration in those parties has increased
since 1996. And of course, 9000 registered Republicans
voted for Buchanan in 1996 Some Republicans and
Democrats, in addition to Reform Party members,
intentionally voted for Buchanan. Did some people mistakenly vote
for Buchanan? Of course they did, but certainly not all
of those 3400 votes are bogus as the people down there
are claiming.

6. If you've watched TV as this crisis has evolved, you've
probably seen the elderly people in a particular retirement
community who have been complaining the loudest. The
facts are that there were only a small number of
Buchanan votes counted in the precinct where that
community is located.

7. There were 19,000+ ballots thrown out in Palm Beach
because they had holes punched for two presidential
candidates. 16,000 votes were thrown out in 1996.
Presumably, this is done by people who make a
mistake, and think they can rectify it by punching
another hole for the candidate they intended to vote
for. I'd argue that anyone simple-minded enough to
think this is the right way to do it is not qualified to
vote. Everyone knows that you are entitled to a new
ballot when you make a mistake, and certainly
elderly people who have voted many times during
their lifetime should know that, assuming they are
still mentally competent.

====================
| Nullius in Verba |
====================
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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