The Bachmen vs. Lizard People

Take a moment and look at these two ballots.

Let’s compare. Does everyone have their copy of 204C.22 ready?

Our first stop will be Subdivision 1: Ballot valid if intent determinable.

In both cases, the only marks in the ovals are next to a bona fide candidate. I will vouch for the voter’s intent with the “X” mark, he/she used it consistently across the full ballot (see Subdivision 10, Different marks).

(We’re going to operate under the assumption that it doesn’t matter what was in the write-in field, despite what David Icke might say.)

The problem facing the state’s Canvassing Board might be reconciling Subdivision 4:

Name written in proper place.

If a voter has written the name of an individual in the proper place on a general or special election ballot a vote shall be counted for that individual whether or not the voter makes a mark (X) in the square opposite the blank.

I’ve polled a few people around the office and consensus seems to be that this is an overvote, meaning the ballot should be discarded.

Aside: I suppose the Franken camp could mount a challenge by saying that “Lizard People” is not the name of an individual, though I doubt “voter intends to be funny” is one of the criteria the Canvassing Board will assess. Comedy Central’s Indecision 2008 crew, by the way, wonders alike.

Several questions arise: Should the county have accepted the Franken vote? Does the voter consider Al Franken equivalent to the Lizard People? Is Lizard People a collective, or just one person like Cat Power? (Hat tip to the Minnesota Independent, which points out who put Lizard People on the map.)

What this also means — assuming the above holds true &mdash is that a lot of the people who played election judge have an unfounded preference for the Franken ballot, legally speaking.

coleman.giffranken.gif

So, there you have it. A pretty straightforward look at some challenged ballots through the prism of the law. Not so hard, was it?

D’oh!

  • Steve Mullis

    I’m still wondering if maybe that first one does indeed say “Bad Men”, their attempt at some subtle social commentary.

  • Bob

    Or does it say Bed men?

    On the Franken example, if you look closely, it appears that the person originally filled in the Franken bubble, but changed their mind and put an x through it. Then the person determined that x-ing wasn’t sufficient, and went on to intentionally exceed the boundaries of the bubble. Finally, the person wrote in Lizard People.

    Whether Lizard People is singular or plural may be in question, but either way, it’s clear to me that the voter did not intend to vote for Franken, and so this ballot, at least in regard to the Senate contest, would have to be discarded.

  • Over such important matters, let’s not restrict ourselves to the question of whether lizard people is singular or plural. It could also be dual.

    My guess is that anyone writing “lizard people” on his/her ballot was not concerned about the outcome of this race.

  • anthony

    He also put an x through all the other bubbles he marked on the ballot.

    It’s far more likely that he wrote in “X”, the scanner rejected it, then he manually filled the whole bubble in so that the scanner would accept it.

    Whoever heard of crossing out a bubble to cancel a vote? That’s desperation, Norm Coleman style.

  • If it’s “Bad men” then that’s an awfully disjointed tail on the ‘d’.

  • Danielle Annette

    I served as an election judge in Hennepin County and can only say I am appalled by how all of this is panning out. Part of our training as election judges placed HUGE emphasis on getting people to fill-in-the-oval. Each and every polling place should have been staffed with a demonstration judge whose sole responsibility was to raise a picture of a completely filled in oval versus an empty one and say, “if the oval for your candidate/measure doesn’t look like this, your vote will not be counted.” We also had a nice demonstration sheet that demonstrated the proper process of writing in a candidate to be bandied about. Before receiving a ballot from the ballot judge, the voter would have to listen to the speil. It was that simple.

    I had three elderly gentlemen at my polling place who didn’t believe me, until their ballots weren’t accepted by the machine. They were given the option to fill in the ballot the right way, or to just push it through. Each man opted to be given a “fresh” ballot, and try again. One would hope we had been through enough standardized tests that as a populace we could manage to fill in a stinking oval the right way.

    Ah, and for those who say, “but I can’t put that much pressure on the pen. It hurts my hand!” Once again, in Hennepin County all polling places were equipped with a ballot marking machine. Don’t fret your tiny little wrist bones, all you have to do is tap some piece of skin against the screen!

  • Had to google “lizard people”.

    Here’s the first link…

    “Lizard-People Run the World

    If a science fiction-based religion isn’t exotic enough, followers of onetime BBC reporter David Icke believe that certain powerful people — like George W. Bush and the British royals — actually belong to an alien race of shape-shifting lizard-people. Icke claims Princess Diana confirmed this to one of her close friends; other lizard theories (there are several) point to reptilian themes in ancient mythology. And let’s not forget the ’80s TV show V. ”

  • Nixon

    The problem with both of these examples is that we can’t see enough of the ballot to help determine intent. The judges use the WHOLE ballot to help determine intent.

    The X on the Lizard People ballot would only come into play if it were an effort to strike out the vote for Franken. But it clearly is NOT an effort to strike out the vote, because we can see that ALL of the votes on the ballot had some sort of X or check mark on them. This is definitely more in line with a poll worker telling the voter to go back and fill in the circles, instead of the voter trying to recant each and every vote they made.

    When it comes to determining if this was an overvote and should be tossed, you can see on the Lizard People ballot that in the race above, the circle was filled out next to the Lizard People write-in. If there was a consistent pattern across the rest of the ballot of putting in “Lizard People” in multiple write-in slots, but then only sometimes filling in the bubble next to the Lizard People name, then voter intent would be clear. If not, it’s an overvote and should be tossed. But we can’t see enough of the rest of the ballot to tell. So not enough information to determine voter intent until we can see the whole ballot.

    On the other ballot, it looks like somebody was bound and determined to vote for Bachmann, and initially was confused about which race they were voting on. Again, looking at the rest of the ballot is crucial to determining intent. If there is a clear vote for Bachmann in the appropriate race, then it would be clear to me that this voter really wanted Bachmann and Coleman to both win their respective races. This would be enough to show voter intent for me. But if they voted against Bachmann in her race, voter intent would no longer be clear, and it would be an overvote and should be tossed. But we can’t see enough of the rest of the ballot to tell. So not enough information to determine voter intent until we can see the whole ballot.

  • Nixon

    Danielle Annette said: “I had three elderly gentlemen at my polling place who didn’t believe me, until their ballots weren’t accepted by the machine. They were given the option to fill in the ballot the right way, or to just push it through. Each man opted to be given a “fresh” ballot, and try again. One would hope we had been through enough standardized tests that as a populace we could manage to fill in a stinking oval the right way.”

    When exactly do you think standardized testing using bubble sheets and scanner was invented? Before or after many of these “elderly gentlemen” attended school?

    Presuming that every single individual older first-time voters have “been through enough standardized tests” that they know how fill out ovals as well as you do stinks of elitism. Or at least self-centered thinking.

  • Colin

    I agree with Nixon. I think it says “bachmen” and maybe this person was confused and didn’t know why Michele Bachmann wasn’t on his ballot.

  • Nick

    I’ve polled a few people around the office and consensus seems to be that this is an overvote, meaning the ballot should be discarded.

    That’s what I thought too until I read 204C.22. The section of the law on overvotes states, “If a voter places a mark (X) beside the names of more candidates for an office than are to be elected or nominated, the ballot is defective with respect only to that office.” but in this case, we do not have a mark next to the name of the write-in candidate. So I think that, technically, this situation is not covered by law. I think obviously it should be counted as an overvote but it looks to me like whoever write 204C.22 screwed up here.

  • Nixon

    The author of this story seems to completely discount the value of ballot context when he says “a lot of the people who played election judge have an unfounded preference for the Franken ballot, legally speaking.”

    It is NOT unfounded for the voters to judge the context of two different potential overvotes differently based upon different marks elsewhere on the ballot.

    In this case, the difference between the two ballots is that you can clearly see Lizard People with the oval filled in for another contest, and not for this contest. This does not appear in the other ballot for Bachmann.

    The author claims to see bias and “unfounded preference for the Franken Ballot” due to different results for the two possible overvotes. I disagree. What I see is two different results for similar overvotes because the context of the rest of the ballot is different between the two ballots.

    The author’s claims of bias and unfounded preference are baseless.

  • Nixon

    Nick, the thing to keep in mind is that 204C.22 has the overall legislative intent of making sure the maximum number of votes are counted where voter’s intent is discernible.

    Keeping that in mind, it is clear that the goal is to NOT throw out votes on a technicality just because write-ins do not have to have the bubble next to them filled in. The goal of this section is to reduce the undervote where there is a write-in candidate named, but no other indication of voter preference.

    The goal of this section is NOT for it to be used as a blanket invalidation of overvotes in direct contradiction of discernible voter intent. If there is discernible intent on a ballot, this section should not be used to toss out on a technicality an otherwise discernible vote.

    The biggest mistake to make is applying these sections as if they were blind issues of technicality, where technicalities are used to invalidate votes whenever possible. Instead these sections are to be applied as a methodology for validating voter intent wherever possible. This is the overall goal of this section of law — to value discerning voter intent more than just blindly applying rote technicality.

  • G. Kennedy

    If the intent of the voter is clear, and the ballot does not break any rules, it should be counted for the appropriate candidate.

    Judging the validity or intention of the write-in candidate is not an option. State law says that wiriting in a name is counted as a vote for the write-in candidate regardles of whether the bubble is marked. Having both a written in candidate and a marked bubble for a different candidate is an overvote.

    Personal opinions may vary, but the law is clear.

  • Joel

    Consistency is important. Toss both ballots.

  • John A

    I’m probably way late on this but I don’t think the ballot says “Bachmen”. It looks like “Bad men” to me. Not that it matters. It is clear the person voted for Coleman, however misguided that decision might be.

  • Nixon

    G Kennedy said “Having both a written in candidate and a marked bubble for a different candidate is an overvote.”

    Please quote me that law. There is no such law that says that.

    You are attempting to add two different sections together where NEITHER section directly addresses the situation you describe. Law is not a simple game of addition when adding together two sections contradicts the overall intent of the entire law. The intent of the entire law has to be taken into account.

    ——————————————————-

    Joel – If the context of both potential overvotes were identical, I would agree that for the sake of consistency both should either be tossed out or accepted. But each ballot has VERY different contexts, and the differences in context force them to be evaluated each upon their own merits. You can’t enforce a false equality to unequal ballots based upon a single similarity while ignoring their differences.

  • Joe M

    First of all, I think “legal consistency” is less important than accuracy – if we can tell the intent on one ballot and not the other, then we don’t need to seal them both to the same fate 😉

    Secondly – and this regards the other ballots listed in the “play election judge” poll – why, in a recount, should we be forced to throw out a ballot just because it has some identifying mark? Even a signature… who does it hurt if I write my name on my ballot. Now I can see if I came forward and said “I intended to vote for Coleman, and that is my ballot” that it might have to be discarded if the intent was otherwise unclear – since that would give me the opportunity to decide my vote after the election was over, but I don’t see why JUST the presence of an identifying mark (with no other reason for challenge) should make a difference at all.

  • klee

    I think if a name is written in the “Write In” box but the corresponding oval is not filled out, the person did not vote for the write in candidate. There are other names on the ballot and if there is not a corresponding oval filled out, there is no vote cast.

    The only challenge that should be made for write ins with no corresponding oval filled in is that the write in itself may be an identifying mark.

  • Dave21

    I agree with Nixon’s arguments generally.

    But Bachmann was running in District 6, and the “Bachmen” ballot was evidently cast in District 4. This was probably a voter who didn’t realize that Bachmann wasn’t running in their district. I would lean towards counting “Bachmen” for Coleman.

    On the “Lizard people” ballot, there are x’s in many ovals that were also filled in, including one for the write-in “Lizard people”. That tells me the x’s weren’t an attempt to cross the votes out. This vote should probably go to Franken.

  • @klee – Subd. 4.Name written in proper place.

    If a voter has written the name of an individual in the proper place on a general or special election ballot a vote shall be counted for that individual whether or not the voter makes a mark (X) in the square opposite the blank.

    @Joe M – Subd. 13.Identifying ballot.

    If a ballot is marked by distinguishing characteristics in a manner making it evident that the voter intended to identify the ballot, the entire ballot is defective.

    My guess is that this relates to voter coercion, where a voter might have been ‘instructed’ to vote a certain way with some sort of identifying mark as proof.

  • Joshua

    Most of the challenges posted on this website suggest a greater lack of integrity by the candidates and their representatives than any confusion by the voters. As long as they show this lack of character now I see no reason to trust them with more responsibility in Washington.

    I was unsure who I was going to vote for in some races; I am sure I was not the only one.

    I think we were all taught how to use erasers in grade school if not before and if these men and their representatives still can’t figure this out we need to elect different leaders.

    As for pens, who hasn’t set their pen down against a piece of paper and left a mark. Anyone who notices this has several good ways be be clear and I think fully filling out an oval would indicate a clear vote. If they had intended to fill out the circle with the dot they would have done so; they clearly demonstrated the ability elsewhere. Most teachers are familiar with this problem and don’t seem to have problems solving it.

    I look forward to being able to vote against either of these men in six years. I only hope someone with greater personal integrity and character is available to receive my vote.

  • Nixon

    Dave21,

    Knowing that information about the districts certainly would help to discern intent. This is the kind of things that most of us don’t know just seeing a bit of the ballot on the internet. Which shows how important it is to have the Canvassing Board examine all the factors, instead of applying mechanical standards is if they were computerized counters themselves. They may very well end up agreeing with you that the voter’s intents were indeed clear.

  • Richard S

    Regarding the “Bachmen” ballot, it is CLEAR Coleman should get the vote. The voter filled in Coleman’s bubble, and when he saw the next section titled “U.S. Representative,” wrote in Michelle Bachmann — he just did it accidentally ABOVE the title for the section instead of IN the section. He meant to vote for Coleman for Senate and Bachmann for House. That’s the voter’s intent and it should be counted.

  • Cedwyn

    Judging the validity or intention of the write-in candidate is not an option. State law says that wiriting in a name is counted as a vote for the write-in candidate regardles of whether the bubble is marked. Having both a written in candidate and a marked bubble for a different candidate is an overvote.”

    how so? one bubble was filled in for the race. the law you’ve cited only states that a write-in name with no completed oval counts. it doesn’t discuss a write-in name and a completed oval for someone else.

    Subd. 4.Name written in proper place.

    If a voter has written the name of an individual in the proper place on a general or special election ballot a vote shall be counted for that individual whether or not the voter makes a mark (X) in the square opposite the blank.

  • Brian

    I think what we really should do here is ask the canvassing board to meet with the Legislature to devise improvements to the law. They are going to have a lot of good experience with what people are doing wrong on the ballots, and any confusing cases should be clarified.

    For example, a write-in name currently counts as a vote for that person whether or not they marked them with an X. This section should be modified to include the possibility that a name was written in, but another candidate was voted for.

    Of course, this is for *after* the recount.

  • me

    I’ll have you know that with the Franken example, he wrote “lizard people” on all of the parts, but only wanted to vote for Senator. When he realized he wrote lizard people in the Senator spot, he marked Franken before he marked the lizard people. The vote should go for Franken because even though the guy is an idiot, he wants Franken. Believe me. I know.

  • Slomo

    Why not just reject every ballot that’s not 100 per cent unambiguous? Any idiot who cannot cleanly mark a ballot doesn’t deserve to have a say. Anybody who wants to assert that this would be tantamount to a literacy test … go right ahead. I don’t care.