Could It Happen Here? Too wide to scan, would we count or copy?

Brad Blog reports ballots too wide to scan in Wisconsin. The official solution – count by hand? NO. They copied the ballots and scanned:  Voted Ballots ‘Remade’ by Election Workers in WI After Being Printed Too Wide for Optical-Scanners <read>

During yesterday’s Wisconsin primary election, a number of paper ballots were sent out in several counties that were reportedly too wide to be tabulated by the computerized optical-scan systems used to tally ballots in the state. The same exact thing happened just two weeks ago during the Illinois primary sending election officials into a panic and causing delays for some voters..

one way in which the failure was dealt with in both Illinois and Wisconsin continues to be extremely troubling and, frankly, offense: the practice of election workers manually “remaking” the ballots of voters after the election, in ostensible secret, and before they are tabulated…

It has become standard practice across the country for election workers to actually create new ballots, by hand, out of ballots that cannot be read by optical-scan tallying computers. The workers either “remake” those ballots correctly or incorrectly. Who knows?

We agree with Brad that this is unacceptable.  How accurately are they copied? Is there a law supporting this? Is there an audit to check, is there a numbering of original and copied ballots such that individual ballots can be verified? Our choice would be counting as that would be easier to check, audit, or recount and recover from. Simpler to prove or restore integrity and confidence. Probably less effort in the first place.

What would happen in Connecticut? Last year we cautioned that the Secretary of the State’s and Legislature’s  “solution” to the Bridgeport fiasco was insufficient. It would prevent the Bridgeport problem by printing more ballots and call for a town by town contingency plan. We warned that there were other events that count trigger a similar problem and more was needed.

Here we may have prevented just one of those triggering events. Triple the expected number of ballots could be ordered, but that would not prevent a problem if they could not be read by the scanners, ‘What Would Bridgeport Do?’, ‘What Would West Hartford Do?’ or ‘What Would Mansfield Do?’

A contingency plan might help if it anticipated a wide range of circumstances and was actually used in an emergency. But we are skeptical – What would there be that would cause Bridgeport or any other town to count accurately by hand in those circumstances, another time? What would there be to insure copying ballots was done faithfully? And that the copying was done onto readable ballots? Once again there is no law allowing any authority to step in, supervise, help, or mandate solutions or reviews. Maybe a court could be convinced to intervene?

Finally, we point out that a law requiring a contingency plan without a deadline, is even less useful than a contingency plan gathering dust on the shelf. Thus far there is no required municipal plan in place in Connecticut. Required first is a regulation containing a model plan from the Secretary of the State. Perhaps that model plan will be a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it will lead to adoption of effective plans across the state. Perhaps the plans will not stay on the shelves and will help avoid integrity and confidence problems.


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