Ballot Alert!

Today’s primary election day here in California, and once again I’ll be out in polling places watching and observing the process. Updates on that as the day progresses.

But I had an interesting experience this morning when I went to vote at my local polling place with my daughter.

I obtained my ballot and inserted it into the Inkavote Plus reader. After working my way through the candidate races I noticed that the vote recorder didn’t seem well aligned with the positions on the ballot underneath — so I wiggled the ballot a bit so that it seemed better aligned with the vote recorder for the measures at the end of the ballot. I pulled the ballot out, noticed the alignment of markings wasn’t quite right, and showed it to the poll worker; her response was to tell me to put it into the Inkavote Plus scanning device and see what it said.

Well, the ballot was rejected — and I got a little paper receipt saying that I had overvoted in one of the candidate races. That was a surprise, I’ve never overvoted before!

So they voided that ballot and gave me another. I repeated the procedure but on a second vote recorder, and still noticed some alignment problems with the vote recorder when I got to the measures at the end of the ballot. I voted, making sure to mark my ballot well. This time, when I pulled the ballot out, I looked at it closely — and indeed, there was a stray ink mark right below one of my candidate choices in that same election that I had overvoted before. I showed it to the pollworker, and I compared it to the sample ballot. No question that the stray mark on this ballot was the problem. The pollworker advised checking it in the scanner, and again — Ballot Alert! Overvote in the same election!

Now I was quite perplexed. But my guess was that I was somehow shifting the ballot in the vote recorder such that it was smearing some ink into some other ballot positions in that one candidate race, or that I was marking the ballot too hard. So they voided that ballot.

The pollworker got a sample ballot, and we both positioned it in the voter recorder, and shifted it around until it looked well aligned. I pulled it out, and got my third ballot (this was my final attempt). I positioned the ballot in the vote recorder, and flipped from front to back to make sure it was well aligned before I started. I voted a third time, making sure not to move the ballot at all as I marked it.

I looked it over carefully, and it looked okay. We put it into the scanner. The good news — no overvote! So the third time was the charm. All in all, not a big deal as the pollworker was pleasant and helpful, and the technology seemed to be catching whatever error was caused by my interaction with the vote recorder. But an odd experience nonetheless, as it’s never happened to me before!