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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

To the State Canvassing Board:

I’ve heard that there are already laws on the books that specify how to treat unclear ballots in the recount. My understanding is that if the election is close enough for a recount, they can look at the messed-up ballots and try to determine intent. I’m not sure if the laws include guidelines for different categories of errors, but if they do, I would want to look at that first. Maybe there were unbiased instructions in place before Coleman and Franken came on the scene.

For the rest of the ballots, I would want to run a blind test first. I would ask independent officials together with the campaigns to come up with broad categories for the various types of voter errors being encountered. Then I would ask the officials to provide examples that mask out the names of Franken and Coleman and instead randomly use the names "Candidate A" and "Candidate B" or something similar. Members of the State Canvassing Board would rule on the blind tests and then be expected to rule similarly on the actual ballots. This hopefully would cover most of the disputed ballots. Then the remainder could be looked at on a case-by-case basis, using blind tests only if there is enough time and money.

You can take the MPR ballot quiz at…

However, a word of warning: My contention is that you can be biased subconsciously if you can see the actual names of the candidates.

In my opinion, X-marks and circles should count. If somebody filled in both ovals and then scribbled out one, then their vote should go to the one that was not scribbled out. If one oval is filled in and another is less than half filled-in, I think it should go to the one that is complete. If it is feint or outside the oval I would want to try to count it. I would not be too strict on identifying names or initials, because I don’t think anyone these days is trying to get paid for their vote. If people wrote in stupid commentaries or write-in candidates, I think I would want to ignore those comments and count the ovals, though I might want to get other opinions.

Bottom line, people can be stupid, but I would want to err on the side of forgiveness. It’s hard getting people out to vote, and we want to encourage more people to participate in the political process.


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