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Voters Beware: Design Flaw Could Compromise Election Results

by Kristen Henderson, published

San Diego, CALIF. - The November ballot has received criticism for its length and complexity, and now there is concern over the layout of the document itself.  

Specifically, the voting bubbles for Measures E and K, both described as “ballot cleanup measures” by several voting rights advocates, are in the exact same positions on reverse sides of the dual-sided paper ballot. That means if a voter fills in a YES vote for Measure E, the voter could unknowingly vote NO for Measure K because of an ink bleed-through.

Measure E, known as the “Bob Filner measure,” simplifies the removal of elected city officials in cases of misconduct. Measure K would remove an existing election provision that allows local races to be decided during the primary stage of the election (rather than the general) if a candidate gets over 50% of the vote. Measure K would require elections to be decided during the November general election, when far more voters are paying attention and participate.

Given Measure E’s overwhelming popularity, it comes as no surprise that Measure K’s proponents are worried about the potential for unintentional bleed-through “No” votes on Measure K. The Measure K coalition, which includes several election law attorneys, reached out to San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu, requesting that Vu’s office take action to ensure an accurate vote count on Measure K.

Vu admitted that his office made a critical error on the ballot. He agreed to conduct a manual review of all ballots in the event of a miscount, but said no proactive measures will be taken to mitigate the potential for error.

Machines read and count individual votes by scanning for marks in the area. A heavy-handed mark made on the opposite side of the ballot will be registered as intentional and counted – even if it wasn’t the voter’s choice. Voters who cast their ballots with felt tip pens are particularly vulnerable to compromising their votes.

Vu said he is not going to issue a news release to alert the public of the mistake.

UPDATE: IVN has been informed that the registrar has characterized the ballot flaw as an “anomaly” and agreed to consider sending a media release informing votes to reinforce the use of ball point pens to avoid bleed through.

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