People Do Cast Blank Ballots

Last night, Mike and I watched poll workers count ballots after the polls closed at a precinct in a school in Tallinn. We will post some more pictures when we return from Estonia that show ballots and the post-election ballot process, but basically, the ballots contain a box in which the voter writes the three-digit number for the candidate of their choice. The poll workers then stack the ballots of like numbers and count and bundle them when the polls are closed.

In one stack were the ballots that were uncounted because of a problem. Three examples of problems were:

  • a ballot cast with nothing written in the box.
  • a ballot cast with XXX written in the box.
  • a ballot cast with 000 written in the box.

These items were on hand-counted ballots for a single-race election.

We are gathering data on the frequency of this occurrence for our project we are doing with Alexander Trechsel, who is at the European University in Florence Italy, for the Council of Europe. The three of us, along with some others, are writing a report on the Estonian experience for the Council and we are likely to write a book about it as well.

By the way, this blog post was written from Double Coffee–the Estonian version of Starbucks–using free wireless access. This city is full of free wireless; hence the name E-stonia.