Foley’s essay on Ohio

Ned Foley raises some excellent issues to watch in the lead up to Ohio’s presidential primary on March 4th.

I’d like to highlight two issues, both of which occurred in California, and are likely to reoccur in Ohio, in part due to the unintended consequences of decertification of electronic machines, the move to paper ballots, and the use of a central count.

(I received some criticism from the California Secretary of State’s office for raising these issues in California. Let me be clear: I’m not implying anything other than the best motives on the part of Secretaries of State who want to move to paper ballots. But, as was clear in California, and as Ned points out in Ohio, this move results in some major administrative challenges, and it’s not clear that some counties have the capacity, and they certainly have not received the funding, to deal with these challenges.)

But back to Ned’s essay:

  1. Central Counts:

    Ned worries about ballot transport issues related to central counts. An additional worry is that central counts will likely result in higher rates of residual votes (erroneous over and under votes) and consequently voter disenfranchisement.

    This is because the voter’s ballot is not run through the optical scanner at the precinct (and errors flagged), but ballots are just accumulated in a box. This problem may not be evident in the presidential primary because if there is only one race on the ballot, but will surely crop up in November.

  2. Absentee Voting:

    Ned is concerned about the spike on no-excuse absentee balloting, raising the issue of abusive practices. I add an administrative burden: if the number of absentee ballots doubles or triples, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions that aggressively promoted this mode of balloting, then local offices can easily be overwhelmed with processing this paper, resulting in delays in the count.

    I don’t know if the rates of absentee usage in Ohio are anywhere near the 40-50% in California, but when you are talking about hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots, there is the sheer physical challenge of storing the envelopes, checking the signatures, opening the ballots, and getting them through the readers.