Handwritten primary votes won't be counted

Here is a great story that addresses the question: when is a ballot not a ballot?

The 299 Chesterfield County votes handwritten on blank paper for the Virginia presidential primary do not count. The State Board of Elections yesterday certified the statewide results of the primary without the 299 Democratic votes, which Chesterfield election officials allowed to be written on blank pieces of paper after nine precincts ran out of printed ballots.

“The state board’s hands are tied,” said Nancy Rodrigues, secretary for the board, noting that the investigation into Chesterfield’s handling of the primary is continuing. Rodrigues made the motion to approve the results without the handwritten votes saying, “I do that with a heavy heart.”

A review team appointed by the state board found the votes to be illegal according to state code, which specifies that only official votes can be counted, Rodrigues said. She acknowledged that there are provisions in the state code for emergency ballots, but not handwritten ones. She indicated that if election officials had made photocopies of Democratic ballots rather than having voters write them on loose paper, they might be counted.

One code section says that “any ballot marked so that the intent of the voter is clear shall be counted” but also states that it must be an official paper ballot. “We are bound to follow the code of Virginia — there are reasons the code exists,” Rodrigues said. “Now it is the responsibility of the board to ensure that this will never happen again.”