Saturday, April 06, 2013

What You Should Know Before Voting A Questioned Ballot

In some cases you don't have a choice - there is something wrong and you have to vote a questioned ballot.  But most of the people who voted questioned ballots at the polling place I worked at on Tuesday did so  because it was "near work."  But if you vote out of your precinct you may not be able to vote in all the races in your district. 

 These are the questioned ballots sitting in City Hall on Friday afternoon.  They were divided by precincts where the person voted.  Yesterday, and today, and perhaps tomorrow, the election commission is going through the ballots to verify the person is qualified to vote.  (City employees I talked to said they were volunteering Saturday.)  So they take a precinct, if I got this right, and review each questioned ballot voter.

Click to Enlarge
The ballot is sealed inside the yellow envelope and they are reviewing the information the voter filled out on the outside of the envelope. 

If the voter is found to be an eligible voter, they then put the ballot envelope into the voter's actual precinct.  (I'm not sure if they put the rejected ones there too.  And I'm not sure how they separate them from the ones already there that they haven't checked yet.)

Then,  people whose ballots have been rejected will be notified and have a chance to appeal.  I heard someone say they'll get a letter AND a phone call.  Then, when this whole process is done, they'll start counting the ballots.

The video has deputy election clerk Amanda Moser explaining this briefly and showing you the set up at City Hall better.  


Why Vote Questioned Ballot?

The Muni Election Manual lists ten reasons:

  1. Voter's name is not in the Precinct Register
    This could be because there is a mistake, the voter isn't actually registered, or the voter is in the wrong precinct. 
  2. Voter is voting out of precinct
    This one the voter has the most control over, though sometimes voters aren't sure where their polling place is.  Most of the 10 people at our polling place who voted questioned ballots did so because they worked downtown and it was more convenient. 
  3. Voter does not have identification and is not personally known to an election worker
  4. Voter's name has changed
  5. Voter has a felony conviction
    I'm not sure how the poll worker would know this (or 6 or 18 or 10) if the voter didn't volunteer the information.  The other way would be 7 - the voter is challenged by a poll watcher.
  6. Voter is not a US citizen
  7. Voter is challenged by the Poll Watcher
    The candidates or (in partisan elections) political parties can send poll watchers to make sure that voters are on the lists and that the process is run properly.  If they think a voter is not registered or not qualified, they can challenge the voter who would then have to vote questioned ballot.  We didn't have any poll watchers at our precinct Tuesday. 
  8. A red line is drawn through the voter's name indicating the voter has received an absentee ballot
  9. Voter is not 18 years of age
  10. Voter has moved

Why you might not want to vote questioned ballot
Click to Enlarge

Sometimes you don't have a choice.  But most of the people who voted questioned ballot at the poll I worked at did so for convenience - they worked downtown and voting in their home precinct would have been out of the way.

If you do have a choice, there are some things to consider:

  1. There are a number of different ballots - which reflect different candidates in different districts and for some districts, different local bond issues.  If you vote in a precinct outside your home district, you will get a different ballot.
  2. If you live in a different election district you might not be able to vote for all the candidates and issues up for a decision in your district.
    At my precinct, there was no Assembly race.  People from districts that had an Assembly race couldn't vote on that race. 
  3. If there are races on the ballot that you aren't eligible to vote on (because you live in a different district) if you fill in that part of the ballot, it won't count. 
  4. You have to fill out more information and your vote won't be counted until the end.
  5. It costs all taxpayers extra to process all the questioned voters.  

What Options Do You Have?

  1. Vote in your own precinct.
    The polls are open from 7am to 8pm.  Just go by your own precinct if you can. 
  2. Vote in a precinct in your same election district.
    This way you'll get the same ballot that you would get in your own precinct.  Each of the different ballots has a number on the bottom "Card X."  The election binder in each polling place has a list of all street addresses and where they vote.  We also found online a list of all the polling places and the card number of the ballot in that polling place.  So, we could tell people whether their home precinct used the same ballot we had or not.  But I don't think that was available at every polling place.
  3. Vote early.
    There are three locations in Anchorage where you can vote the week before the election: 
    • City Hall;
    • Loussac Library; and the
    • Chugiak Senior Center. 
    On election day you can vote any ballot at the
    • Airport;
    • UAA; and
    • Loussac Library. 
    These locations have ballots for all the different districts so you can get the right ballot.  It seemed to me that the people who voted out of precinct at our polling place on Tuesday because "it was near work" could have voted at City Hall during the previous week.  Though for some of them, they got the same ballot they would have gotten in their own precinct.
  4. Vote absentee.
    You can sign up to have your ballot sent to your house and you can mail it in. 

OK, I realize this doesn't dig too deeply into how they figure out whose vote will count and the info about whether to vote absentee should have been up before the election.  But I didn't know it then.  Maybe I'll post something on that next year before the election.  It really makes more sense to vote early or in your own precinct or one that has the same ballot. 

[UPDATE March 12, 2014:  Viddler video replaced with YouTube]

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