The Understudied Process of Ballot Remaking

As I wrote immediately after the Super Tuesday primary here in California, I had a chance to observe the ballot remaking process in Los Angeles County. It’s an interesting part of the post-election process, one that is poorly understood and not well studied.

In California, ballot remaking in counties like LA County, stems from Section 15210 of the state’s election code:

“In preparing the voted ballots for processing, any ballot that is torn, bent, or otherwise defective shall be corrected so that every vote cast by the voter shall be counted by the automatic tabulating equipment. If necessary, a true duplicate copy of the defective ballot shall be made and substituted therefor, following the intention of the voter insofar as it can be ascertained from the defective ballot. All duplicate ballots shall be clearly labeled “duplicate,” and shall bear a serial number that shall be recorded on the damaged or defective ballot.”

The exact process that has been developed in LA County is documented by the Los Angeles County ballot remaking manual. I thank the staff and officials in LA County for sharing this document with me, as it describes in very thorough detail how ballot remaking is done in LA County, for the InkaVote ballot system.

I also had a chance to shoot some very quick video of the post-Super Tuesday ballot remaking process, right as it began. Here’s the video, on YouTube:

Again, thanks to the staff and officials in LA County for giving us the chance to observe and document this process.

However, to the best of my knowledge, no one has had a chance to study in detail any data from a particular election’s ballot remaking process. In particular, it would be important to study whether in any particular election those ballots that need to be remade are more likely to come from particular precincts or parts of the jurisdiction, and what the range of problems are that are leading to most remade ballots. Hopefully in upcoming elections we might have a chance to obtain just this sort of data about the ballot remaking process, so we can answer some of these questions.

Of course, if there are any available studies of ballot remaking that I’m not aware of, please let me know!