Absentees and Optical Scans, a Combination that Doesn’t Work

Poll workers re-voting for you! 
Poll workers re-voting for You!

Take an optical scan ballot, feed it into an optical scan reader, and if that ballot is incorrectly marked, or undervoted, the machine rejects that ballot. In fact, if you are voting at a poll place, this is a really useful feature, because you will have a chance to fix your own ballot. But, what if your ballot is sent through the mail? Well, first of all, what once was flat, is now folded and it becomes fairly difficult for the optical scan machine to read that ballot. And second, if you undervoted, well too bad. Of course if the intent is clear, someone can just revote how they think you’ve voted, which is happening in San Francisco as I type. However, they’ve also added in the complexity of IRV, which works a lot better at the poll site where voters can self-correct a ballot:

http://www.examiner.com/a-1043279~Only_30_000_ballots_left____.htmlSAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) – Only a few San Francisco measures are still at stake as dozens of vote counters work 16-hour days “remaking” tens of thousands of ballots in hopes of a complete tally by Friday.

According to Elections Department head John Arnzt, even though all precincts have reported, there are still 30,000 ballots that need to be copied and counted under strict new state guidelines.

San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system has always created problems when voters leave a choice blank. The machine spits the ballot back out and elections workers count the ballot by hand. Arnzt calls that an undervote.

This year, because undervotes are also caused by marking ballots with an inappropriate pen, Secretary of State Debra Bowen is requiring San Francisco election workers to fill out or “remake” a replica ballot by using a leaded pen that can be recognized by an optical scanner.