The image “http://www.votetrustusa.org/images/votetrust-small2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

 

The nation's clearinghouse for election audit information!
State and Local Election Integrity Organizations
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Maryland
Michigan
Minnesota
Missouri
Montana
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Vermont
Virginia
Wisconsin
VoteTrustUSA does not speak on behalf of any of the listed organizations.
: mosShowVIMenu( $params ); break; } ?>

   
Around the States

Preliminary Findings on Non-Partisan Ballots Cast in Losa Angeles County PDF  | Print |  Email
By Dean C. Logan, Acting Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Los Angeles County   
February 12, 2008
At the Board meeting on February 6, 2008, upon motion by Board Chair Yvonne Burke, your Board instructed the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) to:
“…take all steps necessary as authorized by law, including but not limited to working with the Secretary of State, to ensure to the greatest extent possible that non-partisan votes are counted where the voter’s intent can be clearly ascertained and where the voter attempted to cross-over and affiliate with either the Democratic or American Independent Party, but may not have completed the ballot by marking an additional bubble relating only to party affiliation.”
Consistent with your instruction and my public testimony at the Board meeting, I directed RR/CC staff to conduct a review and analysis of all non-partisan ballots cast in precincts selected for the required one percent post election manual tally. The intent of conducting the review on a statistically relevant sampling was to quickly quantify the occurrence of non-partisan voters who more likely than not intended to cross-over and cast a ballot for a Democratic or American Independent Party Presidential candidate – and to differentiate those ballots from those where the voter clearly elected to vote an exclusively non-partisan ballot.

In conducting the review and analysis, three central findings have emerged. First, although any quantification is significant, the universe of ballots impacted by the cross-over issue has been found to be much smaller than the number that has been reported in the media since Election Day. Second, the limitations of our voting system and the ballot design impede an ability to determine voter intent on those ballots that were impacted; and third, a clear need exists to immediately modify the ballot layout and voting procedures to facilitate cross-over voting in a manner that does not require additional steps on the part of the voter.

We have analyzed the ballot layout to determine whether the ballot design would allow us to make a determination of voter intent with certainty. The ballot layout and voting instructions inherent to our voting system significantly limit our ability to make a clear delineation of voter intent with certainty on those non-partisan ballots where a cross-over party selection was not made by the voter.


In addition to conducting the ballot review and analysis, I continue to consult with the Secretary of State’s office and with County Counsel to assess the legal parameters and feasibility of properly determining voter intent and its applicability to the cross-over voting issues that occurred in last week’s election.

The following is a synopsis of the preliminary analysis and findings based on a review of nonpartisan ballots cast at the polls and through the mail. The full statistical analysis is contained in Exhibit 1.

Background

The manner in which cross-over voting was presented to Los Angeles County voters in last week’s Presidential Primary Election is consistent with the procedures and layout used in the last three statewide primary elections (2002, 2004 and 2006). The voter instructions provided in the sample ballot booklets, which were mailed to all voters in the County highlighted the steps to be taken by Decline to State voters when voting a cross-over ballot. Likewise, poll worker training materials and the actual vote recorder page instructions were consistent with past practice.

With respect to the question of why this particular procedure has been in place for primary elections, one must understand two important points concerning the rules of modified closed primaries and the limitations of the County’s InkaVote voting system.
1. In California, political parties that allow Decline to State voters to cross-over are permitted to restrict the voters’ ability to cast votes for the parties’ Central Committee Contests. This modified procedure requires the jurisdiction/county to be able to restrict non-partisan cross-over voters from casting a vote in such contests.

2. Los Angeles County’s InkaVote Plus voting system has limitations on the number of unique ballot positions available for contests. This limitation has been managed in primary elections, where a large number of party specific contests and candidates appear on the ballot, by overlapping positions. These system specific limitations were a significant factor in the design of current cross-over procedures.
It is also important to note that modifications to Los Angeles County's voting system (MTS ver. 1.3.1) necessary in order to administer California's modified closed primary were reviewed and administratively approved by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley in February 2004. While approval of the methodology for presenting cross-over voting was not explicit in the administrative approval, the testing of the County's voting system associated with that approval did include an understanding and a test of the logic used for the party selection response position associated with cross-over voting.

In recognition of the potential confusion for voters and poll workers alike, the RR/CC was proactive in focusing early voter education and poll worker training content on cross-over voting instructions.

These efforts included:
• Full page "Special Instructions for non-partisan voters" in the non-partisan sample ballot booklets that were mailed to all Decline to State Voters in the County;

• PDF instructions for cross-over voting on the RR/CC website;

• Multiple references to cross-over voting instructions in poll worker training materials and instructional videos (also available on the RR/CC website);

• Cross-over voting emphasis in training materials for Precinct Coordinators who visited polling locations on Election Day and who serve as the first line of contact for our 28,000 poll workers;

• Highlighted cross-over voting instructions in vote by mail ballot materials -- including instructions on how to request a replacement cross-over party ballot;

• Instruction on the inside roster cover at each polling location;

• Precinct Inspector Alerts that highlighted and focused on this issue sent by Federal Express mail to each Precinct Inspector the weekend preceding the election, as part of a final mailing that included the supplemental roster pages. Additionally, these instructions were highlighted in our media outreach efforts including a media release on cross-over voting the week prior to the election.
In addition to the above and in response to the requests and suggestions offered by attorneys representing the Courage Campaign, who first communicated any concern to the RR/CC the day before the election, the RR/CC took the following additional steps to further educate Decline to State voters on their options:

• An additional media release was issued Monday, February 4, 2008 focused on the cross-over voting instructions with specific reference to the party selection response position;
• An audio PSA in English and Spanish was distributed to all broadcast media outlets (radio and television) emphasizing cross-over voting instructions with a request to play the 30-second clip during polling hours on Election Day;
• Audio PSA files were posted on the RR/CC website and cross-over voting instructions were more prominently placed on the website;
• Further distribution of cross-over voting instructions to all precincts and polling locations by Precinct Coordinators; and References to cross-over voting instructions were included in all Election Day media interviews.

Overview Summary

The statistical sample is based on a review of non-partisan ballots cast from 48 voting precincts. This sample constitutes a one percent sampling of all non-partisan ballots cast and included in the semi-official election results released early Wednesday morning, February 6, 2008.

In total, 1,820,758 ballots were reflected in the semi-official election results released Wednesday morning, February 6, 2008; 189,438 (10.4%) were non-partisan ballots. Our vote tallying system reported that 94,530 (49.9%) of these ballots included a vote in a party selection position (indicating a cross-over to either the Democratic Party or the American Independent Party) and a corresponding vote in a party Presidential candidate position.

Those non-partisan ballots that did not include a vote in the cross-over party selection may possibly fall into one of two categories:

1. Ballots successfully marked as instructed:
• The voter did not wish to cross-over and therefore did not mark the party selection position nor a party Presidential candidate position;
2. Ballots marked with a vote for a Presidential candidate and without a cross-over party selection:
• The voter intended to cross-over by marking a Presidential candidate response position without making a corresponding party selection;
• The non-partisan voter, while indicating to the pollworker an intention not to crossover, voted for another party’s candidate selection, whether mistakenly or intentionally, in the common ballot response positions shared by each of the political parties Presidential candidates.

It is important to note that all votes cast for statewide ballot measures and applicable local measures and contests were counted regardless of whether the voter marked the cross-over position or not. However votes for party Presidential candidates were not counted if a corresponding party selection position was not marked on the ballot. A physical and detailed inspection of ballots was conducted in order to quantify these categories of ballots.

Based on a physical examination of ballots summarized in Exhibit 1, we project that 24% of the non-partisan ballots cast were true non-partisan ballots with no cross-over party selection or Presidential candidate response position marked. Applying the same statistical model, we project 26% of the non-partisan ballots cast did include a mark in the range of response positions for Presidential candidates, but without a cross-over party selection. Based on the semi-official election results, this equates to approximately 49,500 ballots. Because the response positions were commonly assigned to candidates for all parties, it is impossible to determine with certainty for which candidate the voter intended to vote.

Applying Sample to All Non-Partisan Ballots Cast

Based on our findings, we estimate that more than 70%, or approximately 140,000 non-partisan voters who intended to cross-over to cast votes in the Democratic or American Independent Party primaries or who chose not to cross-over and to vote a strictly non-partisan ballot did so successfully.

On average, 26% of non-partisan ballots, or approximately 49,500 ballots, appear to have been cast incorrectly. These ballots contained marks within the range of response positions for Presidential candidates, but did not contain a mark for the party selection. It is also noteworthy that the data compiled at the Congressional District level (Appendix D), as well as the precinct level (Appendix C), reveals a wide variation in the percent of incorrectly cast cross-over ballots. This variation strongly suggests that minimizing or eliminating errors in casting cross-over ballots can be achieved through improved voter outreach and poll worker instruction.

Conclusion

As described above, two factors make it impossible to make a determination of voter intent on the ballots where the non-partisan voter marked a Presidential candidate selection without making a corresponding party selection.

First, the response positions for Presidential candidates overlapped across each of the party’s vote recorder pages (see Appendix A). Due to this fact, it is impossible to make a definitive determination of voter intent on those ballots.

Second, non-partisan voters not crossing over were permitted to mark their ballots in any available voting booth, and as such, there is no way to definitively rule out the distinct possibility that a non-partisan voter used, for example, a Republican Party or minor party vote recorder and marked their ballot for one of those party candidates, even though cross-over voting was only authorized by the Democratic and American Independent Parties. Other variables related to consistency in application of polling place procedures and poll worker performance also cast a degree of uncertainty that prohibits us from making broad assumptions about voter intent.

Therefore, it is impossible to determine with absolute certainty that a vote for a Presidential candidate without a mark for a party selection indicates clear voter intent to vote for a Democratic Party or American Independent Party Presidential candidate.

Although it is impossible to know with certainty, it is highly likely that a number of decline to state/non-partisan voters attempted to execute a cross-over vote and because of the confusing layout of the ballot, unsuccessfully cast a vote for some Presidential candidate. While the cross-over party option procedure has been in place now for four major primary elections, we believe that the unprecedented interest and subsequent turnout of heretofore non-primary voters contributed significantly to the confusion we witnessed.

This phenomenon underscores the tremendous importance of ongoing voter education and the need for not only campaigns and candidates to educate their voters appropriately, but the important role the County plays in providing ongoing education to its citizens. Additionally, poll worker comprehension of the process is also a concern and we will move to address that for subsequent elections.

The results do, however, indicate that more than two thirds (74%) of all non-partisan voters executed their votes appropriately. Despite this significant finding, it is undoubtedly clear that Los Angeles County must find a remedy for simplifying its cross-over voting procedures before the upcoming June 3, 2008 Statewide Primary Election.

With respect to counting the cross-over presidential votes where no party selection was made, any attempt to count Presidential votes cast on such ballots would require gross assumptions in order to deduce voter intent. Such a practice would seem irregular and contrary to law as Elections Code section 15154(c) does not permit the acceptance of a ballot in which the choice of the voter is impossible to determine.

Recommended Future Action

The following recommendations are an immediate action plan proposed in advance of the June 3, 2008 State Primary Election.
1. The RR/CC will establish an ad-hoc working group to identify appropriate and feasible remedies to facilitate cross-over voting procedures in Los Angeles County in time for the June 3, 2008 Statewide Primary Election.
2. The RR/CC will consult with County Counsel and the Secretary of State to delineate appropriate parameters for conducting cross-over voting, in compliance with state election code.
3. The RR/CC will conduct comprehensive focus groups with both voters and poll workers in order to test the viability of options identified by the Working Group.
4. The RR/CC will partner with the 208 member Community Voter Outreach Committee and elected officials to conduct a focused and comprehensive voter education campaign, which shall include opportunities for voters to interact with voting systems and the process.
These recommendations are not exhaustive but do present your Board with a clear plan of action to ensure that elections in Los Angeles County are accessible to all voters and conducive of increased voter participation.

Appendices and charts can be viewed in PDF Version avaiable for download here.
Comment on This Article
You must login to leave comments...
Other Visitors Comments
You must login to see comments...
< Prev   Next >
State Resources
Election Law @ Moritz
Electionline
National Conference of State Legislatures
Verified Voting
Model Legislation
: mosShowVIMenu( $params ); break; } ?>
State Pages
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Jersey
New Hampshire
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Guam
Puerto Rico
: mosShowVIMenu( $params ); break; } ?>