FL-13: Who Is To Blame?

This will be an unpopular post with my Democratic brethren. It is about who is to blame for frustrating the voters' intent in the House race in Florida's 13th Congressional district (Katherine Harris's old seat). While it seems absolutely clear most voters wanted the Democrat Jennings, that votes did not register for her is mostly the fault of Democratic Party officials and the Jennings campaign imo. Today Paul Krugman writes:

Reporting by The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, which interviewed hundreds of voters who called the paper to report problems at the polls, strongly suggests that the huge apparent undervote was caused by bugs in the ES&S software. About a third of those interviewed by the paper reported that they couldn’t even find the Congressional race on the screen. This could conceivably have been the result of bad ballot design, but many of them insisted that they looked hard for the race. Moreover, more than 60 percent of those interviewed by The Herald-Tribune reported that they did cast a vote in the Congressional race — but that this vote didn’t show up on the ballot summary page they were shown at the end of the voting process.

I must say, as a fan of Paul Krugman, I find this passage to be incredibly well - NOT good. Fully a third interviewed said they could not find the race on the screen. not surprising when one considers the ballot design in the FL-13 race on the ESS machines. The Fl-13 race ballot is clearly flawed in design. The Sentinel reporting shows a third of those reporting problems as having not seen the race. This is not strong thinking by Paul Krugman. More.

You see ballot designs costing Democrats elections in Florida is NOT a new thing. You may remember this one:

USA TODAY found that up to 18% of the 171,908 disputed ballots could be counted as clear legal votes in a manual recount because the voter's intent could be determined. The rest were irretrievable because the intent could not be determined or the ballot marks violated Florida law. That means at least 141,000 voters, a number about the size of the voting-age population of Orlando, lost their voice in selecting the president.

The study reveals that Democratic voters made far more mistakes, especially when it came to overvotes, than Republican voters. Gore was marked on 84,197 of the 111,261 overvote ballots, compared with 37,731 for Bush.

Ballot standards

. . . USA TODAY's examination highlights an ugly reality of elections that had been largely unknown to the public before November. The American system of elections routinely fails to count hundreds of thousands of ballots because of errors by voters, confusing ballot instructions, poorly designed ballots, flawed voting and counting machines and the failure of election workers to adequately help voters.

. . . Overvote mistakes

The overvotes — ballots with too many candidates marked — tell a fascinating story of how voters err, how election officials unwittingly allow those mistakes and how the consequences were fatal for Gore's presidential hopes.

Only 3% of the 111,261 overvote ballots had markings that could convert a ballot into a legal vote. But the other 97% of the overvote ballots revealed much about the voter intentions, too.

Anthony Salvanto, a political scientist at University at California at Irvine, specializes in computer analysis of voting patterns and served as an upaid consultant to USA TODAY and its newspaper partners on the project.

Salvanto examined the voting patterns on 56,225 overvote ballots for which he had complete data on all races. He also analyzed ballot design in other counties to statisitcally measure voter intent.

Salvanto estimated that Gore would have gained at least 15,000 votes if Gore supporters had not made overvote errors. To make this estimate, he counted only ballots that included votes for Bush and Gore (but not each other) and where the voter voted for that candidate's party in the races for U.S. Senate, state Treasurer and Education Commissioner.

In a less restrictive statistical measure of voter intent, Gore would have gained 25,000 votes if a Democratic vote in the Senate race is an accurate indication of voter intent.

"You get a pretty clear pattern from these ballots. Most of these people went to the polls to vote for Gore," says Salvanto, who helped USA TODAY build the overvote database and analyze it.

The computer data show that voters who marked Bush or Gore on overvote ballots tended to vote for the same party's candidates in other races, an indication of their intent in the presidential race:

* 83% of overvoters who marked a combination of candidates that included Gore, but not Bush, voted Democratic in the U.S. Senate race.
* 69% of overvoters whose vote combination for president included Bush, but not Gore, voted Republican in the Senate race.
* 45% of voters who marked both Bush and Gore voted Republican in the Senate race, and 42% voted Democratic — a nearly even split.

Salvanto says people who overvoted had few problems elsewhere on the ballot. Only 6% of those who overvoted in the presidential race made the same mistake on the Senate race, which was next on the ballot.

It was the presidential race, with its 10 presidential candidates and 10 vice presidential candidates, that confused people. Voters were confused by the long list of minority party presidential candidates on the ballot — the result of the state's recent easing of requirements to get on the ballot.

Salvanto says the leading causes of overvotes in Florida were ballot design, ballot wording and efforts by voters to choose a vice president as well as a president.

Salvanto's findings on why BALLOT DESIGN cost Gore the election:

# Duval County's two-page ballot. Voters were shown the first five presidential candidates on one page and another five candidates on a second page. After the first page was an instruction that read "turn page to continue voting." In addition, a sample ballot distributed by election officials contained the instruction, "vote every page." And that's what many people did.

Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, had 21,188 overvotes, one-fifth of the state total. Fifty-five percent of the overvotes were for just two candidates, one from the first ballot page and one from the second. That suggests that more than half the errors could have been due to the misleading instructions.

Gore had 7,162 of these two-candidate/two-page overvotes vs. 4,555 for Bush — in other words, probably costing Gore about 2,600 votes.

"This Duval County ballot alone likely cost Gore the election," Salvanto says.

  1. Palm Beach County's butterfly ballot. To help elderly voters, Democratic election officials put candidates' names in large type. That forced the names of presidential candidates to appear on two facing pages. Voters were instructed to punch beside their candidate's name in a narrow strip between the two pages. That confused voters because Gore was the second candidate listed but the third hole to punch. Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, on the opposite page, was assigned the second hole.This confusion alone cost Gore the presidency, Salvanto says. Gore was punched on 80% of the 18,748 overvote ballots vs. 20% for Bush.

The most common overvote combination: 5,237 votes for Gore and Buchanan, who was listed just above Gore on the opposite page. Nearly 75% of Gore-Buchanan ballots had a Democratic vote in the Senate race.

  1. Trying to vote for vice president. This may be the most common cause of overvotes, Salvanto says.

Florida law required that each presidential ballot instruct voters to "Vote for Group," an ambiguous phrase intended to tell voters that when they vote for a presidential candidate they also are selecting that party's vice presidential candidate. But many voters interpreted this as an instruction to punch the ballot two times, frequently for their candidate and the one listed just below on the ballot. Excluding the Gore-Buchanan combination in Palm Beach, the most common overvote was for Gore and Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne, who appeared immediately below Gore on the ballot.

. . . "It seems reasonable that these voters were Democratic and intended to vote for Gore," Salvanto says.

So here we are after all that, after all the Diebold/BlackBox BS, and Democrats in Florida, officials in the Jennings campaign, let that flawed ballot go? That is criminally inexcusable political work.

What I see is not an ounce of evidence of computer problems. What I see is ballot design problems that are overwhelmingly clear - and that could and should have been prevented by Democrats and the Jennings campaign BEFORE the election.

I think Krugman's piece is not very responsible as I read it and I think it simply missttates what the Sentinel reporting is showing.

By all means let the contest of the election explore what happened here. Let it be a battle cry for paper ballots and paper trails. Let ESS fight for it now. Because I think they are being scapegoated. I assume they'll want to avoid that in the future.

Some Democratic incompetence is being given a free pass here. I hope it is revealed in the contest of this election and some people get the ax for this inexcusable neglect.

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    I'm thinking..... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 09:09:48 AM EST
    that electronic computerized voting is the equivalent to electronic payment transactions...unnecessary "improvements" that only serve as a license to steal, be it votes or money.

    At least in the old days, a thief had to physically take your cash, or physically intimidate you to steal your vote.  These are instances where technology "making things easier" is most definitely not good.

    All we've seem to have gained by electronic voting is an abundance of doubts.  

    simple answers to simple questions (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Sailor on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 09:41:05 AM EST
    So why didn't these folks demand a correction right there? How come they didn't call Channel 5?
    Answer: they called the jennings campaign to complain from the start and an investigation was demanded while voting was still going on. they also called the newspaper, this is what triggered the investigation. (see "Reporting by The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, which interviewed hundreds of voters who called the paper to report problems at the poll")

    Also, why was ES&S put into a edm area but surrounding repub areas had optical scan and a paper trail?

    Further: the poll workers were aware of the problem and were instructed to call votes' attention to it, yet most pollworkers  didn't.

    Republicans have thwarted dems efforts for a paper trial for years.

    Rethug Sarasota County election supervisor Kathy Dent constantly maintained that these undervoters did it on purpose, until the obvious stats and bad publicity forced her to go back and check.

    ES&S says their machines worked properly, even tho they have no evidence of that.

    You get a paper trail at your bank, you should have one for voting.

    Frayed nerves (none / 0) (#17)
    by dutchfox on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 11:12:48 AM EST

    What about frayed nerves? Frustrated and intimidated voters enter the booth, nerves frazzled, but finally given the opportunity to vote. And they make mistakes? Don't want to ask for help for fear of being questioned and harassed again? Just a thought.

    (I am against eVoting and even optical scanners; paper ballots should be the only way across the nation, IMHO).


    Rational (none / 0) (#21)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 01:11:47 PM EST
    Sounds like sour grapes to me.... and the rest of the rational world.

    a simple solution................. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by cpinva on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:22:14 AM EST
    for paper ballots: require that there be no "page breaks" for any contest. this will eliminate the issue of having candidate's names, for any single office, appear on more than one page, with the same header for each page. this would appear to be a major source of confusion on these ballots.

    this is the "ocham's razer" solution; so simple, i'm not surprised it hasn't been done.

    i've been fortunate. in va, this is exactly how the ballot is designed, so you don't need to worry about missing any candidates, for any office.

    this is sop, there should never be a break in a paragraph, the same principle should apply to ballots.

    Only Demos (none / 0) (#1)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 08:32:30 AM EST
    Moreover, more than 60 percent of those interviewed by The Herald-Tribune reported that they did cast a vote in the Congressional race -- but that this vote didn't show up on the ballot summary page they were shown at the end of the voting process.

    So why didn't these folks demand a correction right there? How come they didn't call Channel 5? Why didn't they call the Herald-Tribune right then?

    So, how come it is only Demos in FL that apparently can't figure out how to vote?

    And only in races they lost?

    What do you think is causing this? Something in the water? Vitamin deficiency?

    Inadvertently you ask the right question (none / 0) (#10)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:24:15 AM EST
    If it were stricly a ballot design issue, wouldn't it effect Republican and Democratic voters alike? This strikes me as an argument that there was a problem with the machines and I am NOT a election machine theory conspiracist.

    I don't think the Republicans are tampering with the machines to steal elections yet- though I am sure they would if they thought they could. Their old fashion methods of voter suppression have served them well enough -see Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

    However,  I have enough experience with compuer technology to know things do go wrong for even beign reasons and that alone is enough to demand a paper trail.  

    As for the design itself, I would criticisize the placing both the US Senate and US House race under the heading of Congressional, which while technically true, is likely to confuse.

    The extra heading is unneccessary.  Simply listing the the Senatorial candidates under the heading US SENATE and the two candidates running for the House under the heading of US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES would have sufficed.


    Read my latest psot (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:35:57 AM EST
    for conclusive proof that it effects Dem voters more.

    Especially in Fla. Age is a factor.


    OTOH (none / 0) (#18)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 11:50:04 AM EST
    If it were machine error that too should be evenly distributed. Under the circumstances I will reconsider your evidence BTD (but after I have more coffee).

    The major reason I think actual tampering is unlikely is that too many people would have to be in on it and somebody would have gotten drunk and stupid by now. Further, why tamper with FL 13 and not FL 22 and so on.


    Only FL? Only Demos? (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 01:02:02 PM EST
    And why should old folks be voting for the party that opposed the Medicare Part D Rx insurance?

    But that logical question aside, are you saying that my vote should count twice, or only old folks who are living in FL and vote Demo should?

    Inquiring minds want to know.


    Gee the GOP's (none / 0) (#23)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 04:39:35 PM EST
    record on Medicare and Social Security is so stellar! And their medicare part D donughnut hole works so well.

    You know Jimbo, if you were half the social liberal you claim to be, you would know the Democratic party position on medicare, medicare part D, and big pharma well enough to understand why most "old folks" as you so quaintly put it, don't trust the GOP on these issues (other than the minor fact that the last 6 years of total GOP control shows they don't like government, don't believe in government and when given the chance, don't govern very well).


    Molly. You don't know what yoy are talking about. (none / 0) (#25)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 06:32:10 PM EST
    Your comment on the "donut hole" demonstrates that you do not have even a basic understanding of the plan.

    There are numerous plans available from numerous companies. Some have copays and an upfront payment, some have this, plus a dougnut hole, others have no up front, low copays and no doughnut hole.

    There is a great deal of information available from Medicare, including an easy to use program, to help you figure what plan best works for you.

    For my spouse we chose a plan with no upfront costs,  low copays and no doughnut hole. At the $10,000 level it drops from 100% plus copays to 95% plus copays. Copays on generics are very low, in the $7.00 to $10.00 range. Since we are approaching the $10K level you can imagine how pleased we are with the $88.00 monthly premium.

    For myself I chose a very basic plan at $13.00 per month with $250 upfront and 20% copays... it has the doughnut hole... My total drug bill this years has been less than $100, so I think I chose right.

    These plans replacded two private plans that would have cost us $165 per month for each, or $310.00

    Thank you President Bush. Pi&^&% on you Swimmer Kennedy.

    So Molly, after demonstrating that you don't know what you are talking about, I advise you to actually read the program.


    National Health Caree (none / 0) (#27)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 06:38:10 PM EST
    BTW - I support National Health Care.

    I look forward to Nancy P and the gang that can't nominate straight bringing a plan to the floor.


    Huh? (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 12:52:19 PM EST
    Molly - Yet?  Remember we just had 9 young Demos convicted of tire slashing..

    Pot meet kettle.


    We've actually worked the polls for the party (none / 0) (#24)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 04:56:06 PM EST
    in 2004 and 2006. The Democratic party's official position is not to challenge any voter. The GOP showed up at the opening of the absent ballots  (here in Palm Beach) and their first inquiries were: how do we challenge a ballot and how do we get it on record?

     Do you see a difference in the two approaches so far?  As a general proposition, the Democratic party is concerned with every voter entitled to vote being able to cast a ballot and have it counted. The GOP, on the other hand is more "concerned about illegal voters" to the point of disenfranchising legal voters. This speaks volumes about their faith in their positions on the issues.

    I don't know the truth or falsity of your allegations about "9 young Demos", assuming they are true, what does it show?

    It doesn't appear they were allocating ballot machines in such a manor as to make the lines longer in certain districts as happened in Ohio 2004; it doesn't appear they were making phone calls target toward hispanics telling them they couldn't vote and if they tried the would be arrested as happend in LA in 2006. It doesn't appear that they started a riot in an attempt to stop the counting of ballots as happened in Miami in 2000. I could go on.

    Your tactic is to say everyone does it, so its no big deal. Wrong. Everyone doesn't do it. And it is a big deal.


    How about 2000?? (none / 0) (#26)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 06:34:55 PM EST
    And in 2000 you challenged military absentee ballots.

    That got you such neagtive press that you caught a clue and decided to do better.


    actually we didn't challenge the military ballots (none / 0) (#30)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 08:57:07 AM EST
    There was anissue with the GOP encouraging people to vote after election day- i.e. illegally- and there was some discussion of whether or not those ballots ought to be challenged. Ultimately they were not.

    9 kids slashing tires is not evidence of large scale voter suppression (except in your head) orchestrated at high levels in the Democratic party. There is plenty of evidence of large scale voter suppression orchestrated at high levels within the GOP.


    On yours (none / 0) (#31)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:10:12 AM EST
    Because the public was on your kisters (a Reagan word) so bad...


    Truth is both do it Molly, so why don't you quit posturing? The adults know better.


    Prove it (none / 0) (#34)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 01:15:12 PM EST
    You just made an assertion- prove it.

    Show a systematic attempt at voter suppression by the Democratic party since 1980.  I will stipulate that the old Dixiecrat wing-which migrated to the GOP in 1980- did engage in voter suppression tactics.

    I provided you with specific examples of organized voter suppression tactics by the GOP in 3 different recent elections.

    You, so far, have shown 9 vandalizing kids AND a discussion by Democrats of whether or not known illegal votes should be challenged.

    I would also point out that it is conservatives dogma that illegal votes should be challenged. Arguably from the convservative point of view, they should have challenged the military absentee ballots which were sent in post election. Of course, since they were the ones soliciting those illegal ballots...

    Again, when unable to claim the moral high ground, the conservative debate tactic is to  claim everybody does it, therefore it is meaningless (to show the conservative did it). It is obfustication. The only posture I see is a poor attempt to claim everybody does it. therefore it is ok that my side did it.


    Voter challenges (none / 0) (#28)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 06:44:39 PM EST
    You don't keep up with bad news, eh? It was in WI during the '04 elections and the tires slashed were on vehicles to be used to transport voters to the polls......

    Speaking of voter challenges, eh??

    MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The sons of a first-term congresswoman and Milwaukee's former acting mayor were among five Democratic activists charged Monday with slashing the tires of vans rented by Republicans to drive voters and monitors to the polls on Election Day.
    Sowande Omokunde, son of Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and Michael Pratt, the son of former Milwaukee acting mayor Marvin Pratt, were among those charged with criminal damage to property, a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    The activists are accused of flattening the tires on 25 vehicles rented by the state Republican Party to get out the vote and deliver poll watchers Nov. 2.

    Guess we could say that was the Mother Of All Challenges. ;-)


    You've been harping on (none / 0) (#29)
    by aw on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 08:54:41 PM EST
    those kids in Milwaukee for two years now.  Two years.  Is that all you've got?  That's pathetic.

    AW (none / 0) (#32)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:12:27 AM EST
    Sad to think that the Left believes truth ages and goes out style.

    Says alot about you, aw.


    Says a lot about me (none / 0) (#33)
    by aw on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:42:05 AM EST
    in a language only you seem to understand.

    voting (none / 0) (#2)
    by johnny6644 on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 08:56:23 AM EST
    So, if I read this correctly, Democratic voters vote incorrectly more often than Republicans.

    Could this mean a lack of compentence using the machinery, a lack of familiarity with this technology, or some combination of lack of "technical" skills and perceived intimidation at the polls.

    Given the GOP's history of vote suppression, fear of rocking the boat at the polls is a factor.

    It may be a defiency of education, opportunity, and nerve. I don't think it's vitamins.

    Are you SURE there's no evidence? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Lora on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 09:54:56 AM EST
    Big Tent says:

    What I see is not an ounce of evidence of computer problems.

    You sure about that?  Ballot design, huh? I followed your link to the ballot and the congressional race is right there in the beginning, easy to see, plain and simple.

    From Bill Bucolo's post on the black box voting site: (bold mine)

    18,000 undervotes. It's one thing to know about these figures, but another to hear the actual missing vote numbers -- the undervotes were like a third candidate in the race. To hear nearly as many under-votes as actual votes for either candidate really drove the point home about how ridiculous it was to claim that so many people chose not to vote in this race, but in all the others. An amazing effect.

    Denial is more than a river in Egypt.

    Are you kidding? (1.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:03:08 AM EST
    Is Bev Harris' people now denying ballot issues completely? There you go. The lunatics have taken over.

    As for the NV beng a 3rd candidate, the raw numbers make such a foolish assertion disqulaifying on credibility grounds.

    Print the actual numbers please.

    My last comment  on this topic and all others.


    And your link doesn;t work (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:03:36 AM EST
    SO it's OK for voters to miss the candidate? (none / 0) (#8)
    by MSS on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:05:10 AM EST
    So if voters miss seeing the candidate's name on the ballot, due to faulty voting machine design -- that's OK because the Democrats didn't convince enough voters to FIND the name on the confusing screen?

    So it doesn't matter if there's no paper trail, because Democrats didn't convince an overwhelming number of voters to overcome the flawed systsem?

    Sorry -- your logic is flawed, and Krugmans is better.

    Not what I said (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:35:07 AM EST
    Krugman is not evne agreeing with you. He is saying something else.

    And I say it is NOT OK and that DEMOCRATS should have kept it from happening.

    But willfully misunderstand me at your liesure.

    In the meantime, my last post is of interest.


    Yeah (none / 0) (#11)
    by aw on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:30:53 AM EST
    I don't see how Krugman is irresponsible.  He's talking about what the Herald-Tribune is reporting and I don't see where he is misstating or misinterpreting it.

    Due respect (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:33:48 AM EST
    He is dismissing ballot design as the culprit and chooses to IRRESPONSIBLY blame the "software."

    I suggest you read my most recent post which makes a fool of Krugman's irresponsible speculation. And is why it was wrong of him.


    Which Party? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 11:03:03 AM EST

    Officials of which party designed the ballot?

    Neither (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 11:08:18 AM EST
    officials from both parties sign off on it.

    Obviously (none / 0) (#22)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 01:14:52 PM EST
    Obviously the Repubs drugged the Demos...