Minnesota Challenged Ballots

If you were under the illusion that people in Palm Beach, Florida were unusually stupid or supporters of the Bush and Gore camps in 2000 were exceptionally mendacious, take a look at this Minnesota Public Radio collection of challenged ballots in the Coleman-Franken contest.

In almost all cases, I’d say the intent of the voter was clear and that the voter followed the rules and was merely thwarted by the use of cheap, messy pens.  I mean, c’mon, a thumbprint smear is a “distinguishing mark”?

I would say that ballots #3, 5, 6, and 11 should be thrown out.

The ballot was challenged in Shorewood because the voter did not make the mark inside a bubble next to a candidate's name. (MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer)

The ballot was challenged in Shorewood because the voter did not make the mark inside a bubble next to a candidate

#3. I’m sorry, but if you can’t figure out that the candidates have circles by them inside the box and that there are no places to mark any candidate but Barkley outside the box, you’re too damned stupid to vote. (That said, I’m guessing this person was voting for Barkley.  Which, it could be argued, is additional evidence for the “too stupid to vote” thesis.)

#5. The guy who wrote “Lizard People” in along with voting for a candidate in each spot did in fact overvote.  If you want the Lizard People to represent you, then, damn it, have the courage of your convictions.  Also, you’re crazy.

#6. “This Olmsted County voter placed a checkmark next to Al Franken’s name and also circled one of the guide marks for the optical scanner. The Coleman campaign challenged the voter’s intent. ”   My guess is that this is a Franken vote and, if this is consistent with the way the rest of the ballot was marked, I’d be inclined to count it for Franken.  But, seriously, how hard is it to fill in a bubble?

The Franken campaign challenged this ballot, arguing the voter intended to vote for Franken. "He was underlining Al," said Franken volunteer Jeff Lange, who made the challenge. (MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert)

#11.  This one is funny.

Now, I’m pretty sure this is a Coleman vote.  Certainly, this guy didn’t intend to underline Franken.  But how hard is it to get another ballot and do it right?

Ultimately, there are rules for voting and Minnesota couldn’t have made them much simpler.  Tiny stray marks and smudges on the ballot are one thing.  But simply ignoring the instructions?  No vote for you.

Interestingly, the unrepresentative but large sample at the MPR site generally agreed with me on how to treat the ballots, agreeing with me on all but 3 or 4.  Oddly, they wanted to give Franken the “Lizard People” vote overwhelmingly, figuring the voter intent was clear.  Make of that what you will.

via Memeorandum

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. FireWolf says:

    #3. I’m sorry, but if you can’t figure out that the candidates have circles by them inside the box and that there are no places to mark any candidate but Barkley outside the box, you’re too damned stupid to vote.

    What if the voter was trying to convey 1 of 2 things or both:

    1) The voter felt none of the candidates where worth voting for.

    2) The voter intended to scribble outside the senate section in order to throw this ballot into question shoulda recount occur.

    Does this make the voter stupid? Or just an asshole?

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    #3 to me looks like he was trying to see if his pen worked…

  3. Triumph says:

    I don’t even know why they are going through with this. Stuart Smalley lost and Coleman won. The “recount” doesn’t even broach the fact that ACORN was active in the state, stuffing ballot boxes for their liberal elitist patrons.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I’ve actually been through this process and I guess I’m tougher than you are, James. I’d’ve thrown out 1, 4, and 7, too.

    I’ve had voters spoil as many as four ballots. There’s no barrier other than embarrassment to doing so. Ballots are legal documents not sketch pads, doodle pads, or scrap paper. Election judges shouldn’t be placed in the position of needing to guess at voter intent. There’s no completely fair way to do so.

  5. Tad says:

    I think the lizard people one is pretty hilarious, but I think the intent is fairly clear that they wanted to vote for Franken. I don’t know what the law is in there but I’d assume if you wrote it in you’d have to fill in the circle as well. Also, he filled in the circle for all his other votes we can see, including another vote for the write in lizard people.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Ballots are legal documents not sketch pads, doodle pads, or scrap paper. Election judges shouldn’t be placed in the position of needing to guess at voter intent.

    I think that’s right.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    I was as tough, maybe even tougher, than Dave. I have grave concerns that if I am too lenient in attempting to ascertain intent, then I become the voter.

    A few were easy: the erasures and thumbprints. The intent was very clear; it was no doubt the technology that was impeding the vote. Also, the voter that placed a check mark and block next to the same candidate, but not in the circle. But, the rules say we should consider the totality of the ballot, so I might reconsider if the ballot showed a pattern of filling-in the circle properly.

  8. SavageView says:

    I think that’s right.

    Unfortunately for you, we have things called laws. But, hey, I hear Beau Biden is taking his dad’s seat in the Sentate. I also heard that a McCain supporter was attacked last night by an Obama supporter who cut her up.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Unfortunately for you, we have things called laws.

    How’s that unfortunate? Dave says that officials shouldn’t be put in a position to guess, which would be alleviated by voters filling in their ballots correctly. I agree.

    But, hey, I hear Beau Biden is taking his dad’s seat in the Sentate. I also heard that a McCain supporter was attacked last night by an Obama supporter who cut her up.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with anything.

  10. just me says:

    Honestly-the little notice about how to vote and what to do if you screw up is pretty clear-at least everywhere that I have used optical scanners.

    And anyone that ever went to a public school should grasp how to fill in circles next to the right answer. Shoot I went to a private school and we took standardized tests every year that involved filling in circles.

    I am not keen on the idea of dicerning voter intent. My feeling is if they didn’t mark the ballot clearly enough for a reasonable person to tell who they voted for, then toss the ballot period. If you are too stupid to fill out the ballot, then whether your vote gets counted is your problem. Nobody kept you from voting.