What we’re dealing with here

ballotUpdate: More ballot pictures below.

Update #2: We put together a page where you can play election judge.

More We’ll probably all tire of this soon, but here’s what election officials will be contending with for the next couple of weeks. This picture of an improperly marked ballot comes from photographer Bill Alkofer who was in Shorewood this morning.

It’s clearly closer to the Al Franken circle, where the mark would have been properly placed assuming the voter’s intention was to vote for Franken. I suppose a case could be made that it’s more likely the mark of a voter trying to restart a stalled pen than a sign of intent.

But, from the Minnesota statute on voter intent:

Subd. 6.Mark out of place.

If a mark (X) is made out of its proper place, but so near a name or space as to indicate clearly the voter’s intent, the vote shall be counted.

On the whole, the statute gives elections officials pretty generous discretion in determining what counts or not.

More ballot photos…

From MPR’s Curtis Gilbert: The Coleman campaign challenged this ballot in Anoka county, arguing the voter drew an arrow pointing at Coleman’s name after filling in the bubble next to Franken’s name.

arrowballot.jpg

Now we’ve got the spirit. Here’s what the statutes say relevant to our next ballot.

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.

From Gilbert again: The Franken campaign challenged this Anoka County ballot, arguing that the thumb print on it constitutes a distinguishing mark. If a voter signs a ballot or writes his Social Security Number on it, that ballot is invalid under Minnesota state law. The State Canvassing Board will need to determine whether this thumb print has the same effect.

markballot.jpg

And then there’s this one.

From MPR’s Tom Robertson: Here is a pic of a ballot that was challenged in Beltrami County. The voter cast their ballot for Al Franken, but also put “Lizard People” as a write-in candidate, not only in the U.S. Senate race, but for several others. The county auditor/treasurer ruled that the vote should not be counted because it’s considered an overvote. Representatives for Franken challenged that decision.

lizardpeopleb.jpg

  • David Brauer

    For what it’s worth, I vote no vote.

  • “Don’t drink and vote” is the message I get from that.

    I watched a little of the Uptake’s coverage of the voting and it sounded as if “identifying marks” were going to play a role in changing the final tally.

    Can someone find out how many of these ballots with identifying marks are going into the “spoiled ballot” pile?

    Thank you.

  • Joel

    I have to agree with David.

    That mark off to the left isn’t even within the box containing the names of the candidates. I mean, how hard is it to make a mark (any mark) inside the oval(s)?

    However, I would be curious to see how this particular voter went about filling out the ovals for the other contests on the ballot.

  • MR

    My guess is that most of the “identifying marks” ballots will end up being challenged by one or the other campaign, and the state canvassing board will sort them out.

  • bsimon

    “I would be curious to see how this particular voter went about filling out the ovals for the other contests on the ballot.”

    Me too. A picture of the whole ballot might clarify this particular voter’s intent.

  • Nick

    I don’t think you can use how they voted on the rest of the ballot as “intent”. Plenty of people clearly voted for Obama and Coleman on the same ballot.

    Personally, unless it is very clear; x on oval, circle the name, etc… I don’t think it should count.

  • Mike

    Nick- The guys above didn’t mean look to see if it was a straight-ticket vote. They just meant look to see if this voter put all the votes way off to the side, or if they ordinarily used the ovals. Pretty common-sense check.

  • brian

    If you write in yourself for some office, would that invalidate the entire ballot?

    I think the thumb print ballot should be counted… it seems clear that there was no intent by the voter to identify him or herself. I suppose that can be a test of the canvassing board.

  • Sooooo another vote for the lizzzzzard people.

    OK that’s all i got, but check out the return of “V”

    http://www.variety.com/VR1117993725.html

  • SB

    I think Hunter S. Thompson was voting on that last ballot.

  • brian

    Does a write in count if you don’t fill in the circle next to it?

  • Shaina

    As a leftie, I came out of the polls with pen marks on my hand from the ballpoint pens provided to us. I don’t think that a smudge should count against the voter.

  • C

    I THOUGHT ALL REPUBLICANS WERE LIZARD PEOPLE.

  • Colin

    I have to agree with Shaina. I don’t think accidental thumb prints should be excluded. Unless they rolled their thumb in ink and rolled it somewhere on the ballot, or something else that shows a little more “intent,” besides a thumb smug, it should be counted.

  • MR

    brian,

    If you wrote in either Franken or Coleman, or it can be deciphered as such, it will probably be counted. Regardless of whether you filled in the circle or not. Otherwise it will just go in the “other” pile with the other write-ins, Barkley votes, and invalid ballots.

  • Bruce

    If someone signs their name, initials or otherwise indicates who they are, the statutes say it is a spoiled ballot and must be discarded.

  • EG

    I don’t think the thumbprint should be viewed as an identifying mark…unless you want to consider the DNA of skin cells potentially left on a ballot as identifying marks. No one can easily use the fingerprint to identify the voter.

    BTW, is it not possible this mark was left by an election worker?

    Kudos to Minnesota to actually writing their rules in favour counting a voter’s intent! What are ya, free and democratic or somethin? 😉

  • Penelope

    THANK YOU for being one of the only news outlets to include the actual statutory language in your analysis of the recount. Peopele need to understand that there are rules and guidelines to how the votes are decided. It’s not just about the recounter’s arbitrary feelings on voter intent. Your website is extremely interesting and much appreciated!

  • Hank

    I’m just wondering how representative these ballots are, because most of them tend to favor Franken (at least to my biased eye). Is this a random sample, or were they picked based on being interesting?

    Considering the “lizard people” voter filled in the write-in oval above the senate race, it seems clear that the voter wrote in “lizard people” to choose between them and Franken. Since Franken’s oval is filled in, the vote should go to him.

  • I agree with Hank: Lizard People was written in to give Al Franken a formidable opponent.

  • bubba

    I think you have to reject the “Lizard People” ballot because it’s an identifying mark.

    I too want to know if you write in yourself (or any unknown name for that matter) for some office, would that be an identifying mark and invalidate the ballot?

  • Jason

    The state already declared Coleman the winner. This is just ACORN pushing a recount at Obama’s bidding.

  • Mike Brown

    Oooh no scary ACORN, one of those organizations who registers poor, dark-skinned people to vote! Nevermind that all those fictional voter registrations came to the government with a cover sheet saying “We at ACORN think these are fake, written by a few bad apples trying to meet a quota and while we’re required to submit them by law, please don’t accept them.” Naaaah, that’s not important.

    I say give the ballot to “Lizard People”. And since Norm is closer to a lizard than Al…

  • Wyoming election judge

    Wow … and I thought we had some messed-up voters Tuesday before last. Guess my native Minnesota has some voters with at least as much cognitive difficulty. Our machines kicked out ballots that were mismarked – why doesn’t MN have machines skilled enough to tell voters about their errors at the polling place so they could spoil the ballot and do it again, right?

  • Arthur

    Neither Obama nor ACORN has anything to do with this recount, and the state of Minnesota sure as heck hasn’t declared anyone the winner.

    The State of Minnesota *mandates* a recount on any election where the margin of victory equals less than one half of one percent of the total votes counted. Neither Franken nor Coleman has any control over this — Coleman won the initial count by *only 215 votes*, way way waaay less than 0.5% of Minnesota voters.

    The *State* says that with results that very close a hand recount *must* be done to make sure everyone’s vote was counted. Franken would not only be a damned fool to voluntarily concede the race at this point, he would be openly undermining the democratic process.

  • Capsaicin

    The only ‘common sense’ rule I used that seemed to match the internet voting percentages, yet is likely problematic, is the cases where the vote is given to the candidate with the circle ‘more darkened in’ (when there is not external negation such as ‘No’ added to the side).

    Hence although I am a Franken fan, I gave the ballot with Coleman blacked in fully, (but Franken only a horizontal scratch or two) to Coleman, while I gave the ballot with Barkley fully filled (and only a dot in Coleman) to Barkley. The one with both Coleman and Franken fully filled but with ‘Franken underlined’ (which most voters apparently read as Franken crossed out) was a neither vote because it could be interpreted just as fully both ways.

    But ‘more darkened in’ seems a rather subjective metric unless the scantron machines actually provide an objective measure of ‘darkening percentage’ or something.

  • I can see where there are some instances where the campaigns are simply trying to have decisions made in their favor (Franken’s camp challenging the thumbprint is the most egregious), but in the end this is politics in its raw form, and we would be naive to expect different. What irks me is how inept at life you must be to not be able to fill in a bubble on a piece of paper. Request another ballot for Christ’s sake. These voters must not have supported their canidate enough to worry about their vote not being counted or switched based upon their lack of hand-eye coordination to make an ink circle.

    Lord help us…

  • kaos

    On “Lizard People”: Only one bubble was filled in, so the intent is clear; the voter wanted Lizard People to be a candidate, but didn’t vote for them

    On the multiple-bubble-marks: Tiny dots, smudges, and pen slips (like the so-called “arrow” which looks pretty clearly like a slip) shouldn’t be counted as overvotes. However, when a voter starts actually filling in a bubble and there’s no external negation, the intent’s no longer clear.

    On the mark way off to the side: the intent is completely unclear, since it’s not in a box and it’s not a decipherable form of communication.

  • Eric Jaffa

    When the oval is completely filled for one candidate, and partially filled for another, they should count it as a vote for the candidate whose oval is completely filled.

    The voter probably started to fill in the wrong oval by accident and then realized his or her mistake.

  • Gordon

    If a ballot is double marked, it should be INVALID, PERIOD!! When in doubt, THROW IT OUT!! It is amazing that anyone thinks that ANY of these questionable ballots should be counted! If you are so dimwitted that you can’t follow simple 1st grade instructions about how to mark something so simple as an election ballot, you SHOULDN’T BE VOTING ANYWAY you cretins!

  • Elizabeth T.

    Lizard People: the bubble is the vote. Franken has the clearly and neatly filled bubble. Franken gets the vote.

    Write in own name: how are they going to tell the difference between me writing in my name because I think I ought to be a senator, and you writing in my name for it? Are they going to discard your ballot by assuming it’s me making my ballot ‘identifiable’?

    WY election judge: our machines *do* (or can) point out errors on the spot. The man in front of me caused the machine to start beeping. As he’d walked away, I looked at it, and there was a clear message that he’d voted too many times for one office (I think it might have mentioned which office, since I vaguely recall which office). Anyway, it must have been clear enough for the machine to refuse it – or at least set off an alarm. They had to call him back and take his ballot out to be invalidated and a new one assigned.

  • Elizabeth T.

    After looking at the “be an election judge” page …

    Lizard People: considering that the voter quite clearly wrote in the lizard people AND clearly voted for them above for the president, I think it obvious that they did *not* vote for this candidate for senator.

    It’s also pretty clear that people don’t understand they can ask for a new ballot. Perhaps much of this could be eliminated by a bit of on-the-spot at-the-polling-place voter education next time by driving home this point.

    Little Dots In the Bubble: Election judges ought to be able to look at the voter’s style in other places. If each vote is a little dot in the bubble, then it should count for the senate. If ALL of the other votes cast are clearly filled-in or mostly-filled-in bubbles, then the little dot does not constitute intent.

  • Bill in CA

    Where possible, it would be nice to see the full ballot. Here are my opinions (and why)

    Ballot #1: The Arrow

    Reject it … just isn’t clear enough what’s going on.

    Ballot #2: The Thumbprint

    Accept it. The Tumbprint does not show intent to identify the ballot.

    “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.”

    Ballot #3: Outside the lines

    Reject it. If every office was marked in a similar spot I MIGHT consider counting it, but on that much evidence it could very well be just a stray mark.

    Ballot #4: The NO ballot

    Count for Franken. Clear case of an “Attempted erasure” (see Subd. 11.)

    Ballot #5: Lizard People

    Count for Franken. If Franken’s bubble wasn’t filled in, it would be counted for “Lizard People”, but especially in comparison to the Presidential line, it is clear the voter wanted Lizard People to be a candidate, but to vote for Franken.

    Ballot #6: The Checkmark

    Count for Franken. It would be nice to see the rest of this ballot as well. Either the checkmark or circle alone would be harder to count, but with both pieces of evidence corresponding so perfectly, I would count it.

    Ballot #7: The Oops

    Reject. This is probably the toughest call for me. My way of rationalizing this is that Franken’s oval is “more than a dot” or “more than halfway filled in”.

    Ballot #8: The Dot

    Count for Franken. Just a dot elsewhere doesn’t give me as much pause as #7

    Ballot #9: The Eraser

    Count for Barkely.

    Ballot #10: The Confusion

    Count for Barkely. The rest are pretty clearly stray marks.

    Ballot #11: The Underline

    Reject. This may have been an attempted Erasure, but Jeff Lange’s rationale is just plausible enough.

  • jharp

    Damn good quiz and post. I expect and hope you will get a lot of traffic over it.

    Please post more ballots and thanks.

    Really, a damn good quiz.

  • Thad Beier

    Thanks MPR, for bringing all of the subtleties of the recount to light. You have made the unclarity of the process very clear indeed.

    I hope that the five judges at the end who have to look at all of these challenged ballots have at least as much sense as the people who took this poll…I agree with the majority in every case.

  • Rupert Baer

    God, why are some people so stupid? Is it that hard to just fill in a bubble, properly?!?

  • Oliver Steinberg

    Excellent work MPR, especially having the statute there for instructions.

    There are only a few where voter intent isn’t easy to tell. The viewer votes are quite consistent in most examples.

    As for “Lizard people,” I would count that one as a vote for Franken. The voter filled in the oval for L.P. in the presidential race but left the Senate race LP oval blank, while clearly filling in the oval for Franken. This is the one instance where the issue of “identifying marks” might be raised, but I would consider it more of a protest gesture like voting for Donald Duck (as some people do) rather than as an identifier. The thumbprint is just an accident—Franken’s people are off base to challenge that—who’s going to be checking the fingerprint database in order to pay off a bribed voter? Ridiculous.

  • Ryan

    As a political junkie, this constitutes a post-election fix!

    Although election laws vis-a-vis rejected or accepted ballots are necessary and surely exhaustive, I imagine they don’t account for all possibilities. I suppose that’s why some ballots can be challenged in spite of laws that would seem in direct contradiction to said challenge(s).

    Here are my two cents (full disclosure: I voted for Franken)…

    Ballot #1: Evidently, as some have stated, it would be interesting (potentially helpful) to see if this voter marked their ballot similarly for each contest. If so, then I believe the voter’s intent in this circumstance was/is a vote for Franken. On the other hand, if the voter correctly filled in the “bubbles” throughout the remainder of the ballot, this is nothing more than a scribble (“restarting a stalled pen”), I would presume – and thus, the voter likely abstained from voting in the Senate race.

    Ballot #2: I’m not convinced I see an arrow; a scribble drawn by a shaky hand is more plausible. Regardless, the “bubble” beside Franken’s name is filled in rather fully and should count as a vote for him, I believe.

    Ballot #3: A thumb print is hardly an identifying mark and should not be deemed as such, unless the ballot was used as a muder weapon (CSI Duluth, anyone?). In all likelihood, nearly every ballot cast has their respective voter’s finger print smudged somewhere on it; besides, as one person stated, who’s to say the finger print wasn’t left by someone other than the voter? That said, if the voter identified their choice using an ink-soaked finger (I’m sure it has happened!), it should done so, consistently and clearly throughout the ballot. This strange way to fill out a ballot leaves little room for intent; in other words, a finger print can cover a large enough surface on such a ballot so as to overlap more than one candidate. Oufff, just use a pen or pencil already!

    Ballot #4: Overvote, in my opinion. This genius voted for Franken and also decided to write in a candidate, albeit without filling in the “bubble”. I still view this as an overvote.

  • Dick

    I agreed with the majority on all these examples. I think there needs to be a way to school people in filling out ballots. They’re standing in line for how long? Clear instructions need to be displayed on posters along the waiting areas. Kids should be getting this stuff in civics classes. A single design for ballots would also help. How about a desk where people could take ballots they know they’ve made a mistake on?

    Billions of financial transactions are conducted every day, and are tallied to the penny, virtually without error. I have to believe that the inadequacies we see in voting methods are intentional so some can game the system to their advantage.

  • brian

    “God, why are some people so stupid? Is it that hard to just fill in a bubble, properly?!?”

    My wife brought up the point that if we hadn’t grown up taking “fill in the bubble” tests, filling in a bubble on a ballot might seem pretty weird. Especially if english weren’t our first language.

    I think people still would have to work at not paying attention to all the signs… and there are probably people that are just stupid. But you don’t have to take an intelligence test to vote.

  • Grep Agni

    I am totally voting for Lizard People next time I can’t make up my mind.

  • William

    The voter only wrote in “Lizard People” in the Senate race, but didn’t actually mark the bubble for the write-in. Franken gets the vote.

    Full disclosure — I’m a leftie partisan, but I voted squarely on the samples provided, included some votes for Coleman. This is fun. Let’s do Florida 2000 next!

  • Maura

    As an election judge you often need to see the entire ballot. Regarding the mark outside the line, were all the marks for all the candidates made the same way or was the voter able to fill the circles? If so, I think they were trying to get their pen to work. The thumbprint is perfectly understandable by someone who is hurrying from a trade’s job to get to the polls before they close or from someone who had to check something on their engine before coming up to vote. It happens!

    If there is an overvote some people make that choice as a statement to indicate that they don’t think there is a hill of beans of difference between the two. The one that says no should be a Coleman vote. Where there is a dot, then a full circle, the full circle should count. I believe the rest of the ballot would indicate the voter was able to adequately fill the circle to make the choice. I told the voters that if they made any mistake to bring the ballot back, and we would give them a new ballot. When one voter did make a tiny dot in a circle where he did not want it, the voting machine did reject the ballot so he chose to get a new ballot and re-fill the ballot. There are voters who do not care enough if they have overvoted and choose to send the ballot through knowing that that will invalidate the vote for the elected position. Be careful not to think that everyone has the same mindset that you do!

    PS. I heard that our precinct was already counted and the count came out exactly as our judges called the votes. Way to go for our judges and our voters!

  • bsimon

    The ‘distinguishing mark’ of a thumbprint seems a bit ridiculous. While the print on the pictured ballot is apparent, aren’t prints on most – if not all ballots? My hands weren’t greasy on voting day, so my prints won’t be visible to the naked eye; but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. If greasy guy’s thumbprint invalidates his ballot, nearly all ballots should likewise be eliminated.

  • Bonnie

    I think that several of these ballots could actually be votes for the FSM by a devoted pastafarian!

  • StefanMuc

    I’m just surprized that someone would go to the polling station, wait in line for (possibly) a long time, and then write in some non-existent people. It seems an awfully small amount of entertainment for such an effort…

  • lizard person

    As the official Presidential candidate on the Lizard People ticket, I believe that the vote in question should go to Franken for Senate. How do I know what the intent of the lizard was? I know by the ovals…lizards aren’t stupid, duh! The lizard/voter colored in the oval for the Lizard People party for President (that’s me), and colored in the oval for Franken clearly intending that the vote go to Franken who, we know, is a tin-foil hat wearing lizard. End of discussion.

  • gobefish

    who knows when or who scribbled on those. use the computer totals.

  • Dan

    Is there anyway we can see the instructions at the top of the ballot? I believe it states to completely fill in the oval, not “x” , check , or mark outside the oval. Does not following explicit instructions show intent to not take voting serious?

  • J.C.

    Re: “Lizard People”

    What about Minnesota Statutes § 204C.22 Subd. 4? “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 a square opposite the blank.”

    I guess based on that I’d have toss out that vote.

    *****

    Re: Identifying marks

    That’s a really good question if your ballot can be tossed because you voted for yourself as a write-in for some office. I can’t imagine some judge interpreting the law that way. It would limit your right to vote for whom you wanted. (But sometimes you gotta wonder about the courts…)

  • Joanna

    Lizard People FTW!

  • @ J.C. – Good catch in the statutes. I wonder, then, if the ballot becomes an overvote and must be discarded because the voter filled in the Al Franken oval as well.

    @StefanMuc – Odds are the lines in Beltrami County, ~40,000 in 3,000 sq. mi., weren’t as bad as some around the country.

  • Jack Driscoll

    This was pretty fun, maybe if they just posted contested ballots online for people to vote on they wouldn’t have to pay to do a recount. Furthermore, anyone who thinks that Lizard People are “an awfully small amount of entertainment” (and I am pointing my finger squarely at StefanMuc) has clearly not done their research on Lizard People. They are an awfully large amount of entertainment, especially those of the David Icke variety.

    This all seems a little silly, though – here in Wisconsin, we use similar forms (but there are broken arrows that are completed instead of circles to be filled in). We have sample ballots and people offering assistance. You feed the form into a scanner and if it has difficulty reading it, there’s a person there to help you figure out what went wrong and you get another form to fill out. It seems like an obvious solution, though perhaps some contentious ballots would still get accepted.

  • Kevin

    Can someone answer this for me, Do the Challenged votes currently count in the totals until a change is made by the Canvasing board or are they completely held out of of the picture until that date?

  • While being able to see how they filled out the other ovals can be useful, the danger is implying voter intent from whoever else the person voted for. Inferring intent when Franken had a 23% undervote compared to Obama and Coleman has only a 5% undervote compared to McCain would be presuming the voters intent, not being able to actually tell. If this race is the only one poorly marked on a ballot, the judgement should lean toward a NO VOTE.

  • brian

    My understanding (from here) is that the contested ballots are not included in the running totals.

  • mikeA

    If you fail to fill in one circle completely, your ballot should be thrown away.

    If you are too stupid to fill in a circle, you should not be allowed to vote.

  • Kevin

    Mike we should also make sure people can speak fluent english and are land owners to allow them to vote too.

    sorry but stupidity is not a disqualifier.

  • Chris

    Really, it’s not very hard to vote in MN. All we have to do is fill in the little oval next to the name. Most election judges even tell you that. And there are diagrams inside the voting booths describing how/where to mark. Perhaps if someone can’t figure it out, we don’t really want to be counting their vote. —-Just a thought.

  • Ann

    Admittedly, I haven’t read the statute for vote determination yet: But with each contested vote, what I would find most instructive/helpful is to see tendencies throughout the contested ballot. That is, did the individual vote unambiguously for all democratic or republican candidates on the rest of the ballot? It seems a logical additional variable to determine intent. And if the voter does not show clear tendency for other republican or democratic candidates, the fallback is whatever rules those charged with recounting typically use. Thank you to all of those charged with this responsibility.

  • Dave Kliman

    This ig great! I want to see them ALL! can you put ALL the challenged ballots on your site, with polls for each one? and then could you compile the results onto a single page chart so we can see who would be ahead, based on the listeners’ consensus?

  • BillC

    These are ridiculous. We have one of the simplest ballot systems in the country, why is it so hard for people to follow simple instructions? If you make a mistake, you get a new ballot. It seems like a case of “if you can’t be bothered to do it right, don’t show up”. Voting is too important for it to have to come down to guessing intent. Election officials are there to help and avoid problems like this, but it’s up to the voter to care enough to do it right.

    All mis-marked ballots go to the Lizard People; they’ll get the leaders they deserve.

  • Chris Schulman

    I don’t know what’s scariest: the fact that statute 204C.22 is outdated with respect to the voting technology (it refers to making the mark “X” when the ballot is of the type that calls for the oval to be filled in, not marked with an “X” … how old *is* that statute?), the badly marked ballots, the bizarre arguments by the candidates’ staffs, or the votes cast by the readers of the MPR article.

  • Lefty

    What happens if the person casting the “Lizard People” ballot ends up parlaying their notoriety as the result of this story into a news story (or a book deal, or Hollywood movie)? Does the ballot then fall under the “distinguishing mark” section of the law, ex post facto? Or could you still say there was not an intent at the time of casting of the ballot for the voter to become noteworthy, therefore eliminating the intent portion of that section?

  • me

    WTF people. If you screwed up your ballot, REQUEST A NEW BALLOT and REDO it. Otherwise you clearly don’t care and if there is any question your ballot should be thrown out. Hey, you only do this once very four years, you think you could maybe take the effort to do it right. I think there was clear intent on some of these even though they were technically inadmissible, but it’s an easy problem to solve by the voter just redoing their ballot and not making us all guess at what they meant.

    By the way, Lizard People while written in was not marked in. I don’t know the technical rules but I’d give that one to Al. But he’ll have some work to do bring folks together. This isn’t the Non-Lizard States of America or Lizard States of America, it’s the United States of America.

  • Robodoc

    It occurs to me that the best way to adjudicate these ballots would be to subject them to a “blinded” panel of independent observers. Blank out the candidate names on the ballots and have a “jury” of observers vote on who gets the nod.

  • @Robodoc – Very interesting idea. I wonder what the implications are for a internal/emotional influence when you know a) the whole country is watching and b) the pressure is mounting as/if the difference between Franken and Coleman gets smaller.

    It’d be a tough thing to implement though, especially in cases like ballot #11.

  • Alfred

    I don’t know about MN, but in Florida, where we brought back the fill-in-the-oval ballots, there is a handy guideline when you sign in. They show you a piece of paper with a bunch of ovals. One is completely filled and says YES in green. Then there are x’s, slashes, half-filled, check-marks, etc, each labeled NO in red. They even have a little pad of post-its with practice ovals so you can test yourself and be approved by the election staff.

  • William

    Ballot #11 and the challenge are hillarious. One could interpret it as a strike mark against Franken, or one could interpret it as an underline for Franken, or one could even interpret it as a cartoon sperm cell (tadpole?). If the tadpole theory is discounted, would the sperm represent a more macho Y chromosome in favor of Franken or does it suggest he’s a dick and Coleman is not?

    I’m confused . . . I guess this is why we have election officials.

  • Mike Walsh

    I am an Election judge in Chicago, where we also do optical scan ballots. Do MN polls have a scanner in each polling place, like we do? Ballots with too many extraneous marks are rejected by the machine, and we give the voter a fresh ballot and tell them to try again, while we mark the first ballot “spoiled”. It rejects most weird vots like those shown. Or are all these absentee votes, counded later?

  • Man. There are some DUMB people voting. How hard it is it to fill in the bubbles? And erasing or filling in the wrong bubble? How could anybody be that undecided in the booth with candidates like that? And ‘lizard people’?

  • GC

    I looked over all of these, and there was perhaps one tough call. Most of them are very obvious. People make some stupid mistakes, but it is still apparent what their intention was.

  • Kat

    Offhand, I can think of a lot of legitimate reasons why someone might mark a ballot incorrectly, that don’t include being “stupid”.

    For people with physical problems like arthritis or limited vision, or with limited english, it could be very hard to mark a ballot fully. Volunteers are available to help. Many people use them. Those who don’t may either be paranoid about having ANYONE else see their ballot, take pride in still being able to vote alone, or don’t know they marked the ballot incorrectly.

    Having seen first-hand the effects of things like ALS, I’m not going to call anyone struggling to remain self-sufficient “stupid” for thinking their skills on this one are still better than they really are. And I’m not surprised they wouldn’t call for a spoiled ballot– they THINK it was okay, they don’t want to be a fuss, and they really don’t want anyone to think they can’t fill out a ballot correctly when they KNOW they can.

    The next reason I can think of is more a concepts issue:

    Large numbers of people still have little to no familiarity with computers. Not all of them are elderly; they just never use a computer in their jobs or at home.

    An optical scanning device is a computer. If you aren’t familiar with computers, you may not have a clear concept of what they can and can’t do.

    What if your concept of that scanner is that it’s just a big box, and all the ballots get taken out and counted at the end of the day? An election judge will surely see your crossed-out vote and new arrow.

    Why SHOULDN’T a scanner be able to distinguish between a full bubble and a partial bubble? And when that ballot isn’t accepted by the scanner, isn’t it most logical that you just didn’t feed it quite correctly, like your dollar bill in a vending machine?

    None of this is stupidity. These are mistakes that are made when you’re not familiar with the equipment. And no, the fact that you see people using computers on TV doesn’t give you an accurate concept. What, you thought that was really a hologram Wolf Blitzer was speaking to on election night?

    There are reasons we count votes that weren’t marked correctly. Because we have no way of knowing what happened, and no way of controlling for all the possibilities.

    Anyway: are you absolutely 100% sure your ballot was all correct? Really? I bet a lot of the people marking ballots we’re seeing here thought so, too.

  • Lynette

    This whole “intent” thing is stupid. Whichever circle is completely filled is the candidate who got the vote. These little marks are either an – “oops! Misread the name!” or someone dropping the pen or something like that.

    And you ARE allowed to change your mind in the voting booth.

  • Chris Schulman

    Really good suggestions, Robodoc & Alfred. Since the voting officials in Minn. probably aren’t reading this page, may I suggest that you both pass your ideas directly to the appropriate Minn. state agency? No guarantee that they’ll read or care about vox populi, but I’d say there’s a better chance of that in Minnesota than in my home, the Neanderthal State of Texas.

  • Joel

    Why would a person write in a name on the ballot, only to vote for a candidate already on the ballot? It’s not logical, and that’s why I believe it was challenged.

    If the voter really wanted Franken to get his or her vote, then the voter should not have been so irresponsible as to write in “Lizard People”.

    The Thumbprint voter, however, should have his/her vote counted toward McCain (not that it matters).

    The Arrow vote, I believe, should be counted for Franken, though I would suggest that this is perhaps the most “questionable” of the examples shown.

    and no, I am not a Republican 🙂

  • Karen S

    In all these cases where people have messed up their ballots the ballots should be thrown out, no matter who benefits or how the re-counters feel about what a voter “really meant”.

    You goof around with your ballot, try to be cute and mess it up in the process, get sloppy with and render it illegible – your ballot gets tossed into the circular file.

  • John Clavis

    Minnesota needs to ditch the Scantron SAT sheets and give the voters some good, reliable binary YES/NO way to mark a candidate or referendum answer. This is BS.

  • Eggs100

    Why are still effing around with paper ballots OF ANY KIND in the 21st Century? Clearly, there is certain segment of the population who simply can’t do it.

    In my town, I press a button, it lights up, and my vote is recorded. I could press the button with ANY part of my anatomy, and I still voted.

  • LLDEM

    It just goes to show that there are some pretty stupid folks out there. You would have thought these folks had never taken an SAT. (Maybe they didn’t)

  • Kevin

    How dare Franken attempt to steal votes from Lizard people! When will this hateful discrimination come to an end? Lizard people are people too!

  • jdub

    Why do I get the distinct impression that the ballots aren’t the only challenged things in Minnesota?

  • SueG

    Doewsn’t matter-the Dems will find someway to cheat and let Al win . Typical frauds- remember ACORN

  • RFO

    /Why are still effing around with paper ballots OF ANY KIND in the 21st Century?

    Paper ballots produce a paper trail which I feel is essential in recounts such as this. I feel electronic machines are dangerous if there is no paper trail to back up the election results. Also, there have been many instances of fraud with machines, particularly the Diebold brand. There were instances during this election of machines flipping the vote to the other candidate rather than the one selected.

    One hopes that the scanning process could be improved, but I’ll stick with the paper ballot with optical scanner anytime!

  • Steve Z

    Ballot #1: Coleman. Voter marked Franken, then drew arrow for Coleman.

    Ballot #2: McCain/Palin. Voter started to vote Nader, erased it and chose McCain.

    Ballot #3: Nobody. Mark is clearly outside the line.

    Ballot #4: Franken. Voter filled in Coleman, wrote NO, then voted Franken.

    Ballot #5: Nobody. Voter looks like he crossed out Franken vote, then wrote in Lizard People.

    Ballot #6: Franken. Voter both circled box and put in check mark near Franken. Not too bright, may be one of the Lizard People.

    Ballot #7. Coleman. Voter started to fill in Franken, changed his mind and completely filled in Coleman.

    Ballot #8: Franken. Voter started to fill in Barkley, changed his mind and filled in Franken.

    Ballot #9: Barkley. Voter obviously erased Franken vote, changed mind and voted Barkley.

    Ballot #10: Barkley.

    Ballot #11. Nobody. Both Coleman and Franken ovals filled in, not clear whether voter wanted to underline or cross out Franken.