Posted at 5:43 PM on November 21, 2008
by Than Tibbetts
I found this document from the Secretary of State's office that, I believe, is meant to be a guide for election officials. The language is a little more plain than the state's voter intent statute.
Here's the key sentence that solves our Lizard People ballot question:
Count all printed names with a mark made opposite them and all names written-in, not exceeding the number to be elected for that office.
Since you can only elect one person to the the U.S. Senate seat, the Lizard People ballot is an overvote. It doesn't count, and neither does the "Bachmen" ballot.
The document includes a "Notes and Decisions" section that you might find relevant, if you've been following along with our discussions and the ballot judging game. The names in parentheses refer to the names we gave the ballots on the challenged ballots game.
Appearance of marks which trial court may reasonably consider to be tentative or accidental should not destroy ballot. (See: The Arrow, The Thumbprint, The Oops, The Dot, The Confusion) If the voter used an identifying mark or mark with the intent to identify the ballot, the
entire ballot is defective. (See: The Signature)
Ballot containing oval mark in upper left hand corner, obviously made by voter in testing writing quality of pen before marking ballot, was properly counted despite claim that oval was an identifying mark. (See:The Autograph, maybe) Ballots which had crossmarks both in pencil and in ink on same ballot were properly counted. (See: The Pencil) Ballot which contained word "no" and an obliteration before name of one candidate was properly accepted for counting. (See: The NO ballot)
What I don't understand, aside from my opinion on which stay or not, is why is underneath Coleman's name it says "Republican", while underneath Franken's it says "Democratric-Farmer-Labor". Can someone please explain this to me? Is that not swaying the *uneducated voters* to which Franken referred?
It says Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party because that is Minnesota's Democratic Party and the party from which he is a candidate.
You can bet that (Mr/Ms/Mrs) Lizard People will be more organized the next time Franken and Coleman battle it out.
Maybe zero votes isn't exactely a strong showing, but all the attention may amount to a future victory.
I worked the optical scanner for an election in Virginia, and every one of these with overvotes, smudges, extra dots, etc., would have been kicked out and tagged as a spoiled ballot. The voter would have to sit down, fill in all the bubbles and two judges would attest that it was a spoiled ballot. If the voter specifically wanted an overvote, then s/he would have to state that, the scanner would be temporarily overridden, and the ballot cast - but no vote would register in that race.
I was surprised at how sensitive the machine was (so sensitive that we had to replace several pens that blobbed the ink and smeared.
I'm all for careful reexamination of the contested ballots, but most of these problems would be forestalled if the scanner was set more rigorously and the election judges attentive to these issues.
Andrew, It's possible/probable that many of these messed up ballots were case as absentee ballots, and scanned without the voter standing nearby. No chance for a do-over.
On Ballot #3: The X Factor, Caroline Yang left off an important piece of information -- how did the voter fill out the other races on the ballot.
From what little can be seen of the ballot, on the Constitutional Amendment, this voter filled out the oval cleanly, with no X over it. That is important!
On the recount, I challenged 2 ballots just like this, where the voter had X'ed over the filled in oval in the Senate race. But I accepted one where the voter had an X'ed out oval in every race. I thought that this voter had likely voted by putting X's to vote, and then was told that they needed to be filled in ovals, so had done that for all races.
A consistent pattern is important. In the example given, the voter appears to have X'ed out his Senate vote, so their intent is not clear. The vote should be rejected.
It would be interesting to know if this voter wrote-in Lizard People in all the races. It's clear that the oval was filled in on top of the x in both the Lizard People vote and the Franken vote. It's possible that the voter x'd all the ovals and was told to fill them in.
Voters are instructed that they have to fill in the oval next to the write-in if they want the write-in to count. I don't read the SoS instruction as saying that the write-in can skip that although I'd concede it's not clear. The statute however is clear that the oval has to be marked next to the write-in.
I wouldn't count either Lizard People or Bachmen as overvotes.
This guide from the SoS seems to be referring to city council and school board races, where you vote for multiple candidates in one race. I believe this ballot, along with the "Bachmen" ballot, can still be successfully challenged with the canvassing board.
It's clear that Lizard People got the vote in every single other race on this ballot except for the Senate race - writing in Lizard People in a race where you vote for another candidate simply means, "I wish Lizard People were in this race... I won't vote for them, but I wish they were."
The guide is meant to give rough instructions to the lower ranks of workers. It intentionally simplifies the law so that each worker doesn't have to have a law degree. Workers are also told that when they have the slightest doubt, don't rely upon this guide, get a supervisor.
This guide does NOT supersede the law, and the Canvassing Board is NOT bound to following this guide when reviewing ballots. They are bound only by the actual statues, and the case law associated to the statutes.
These standards in this guide simply will NEVER be used by the Canvassing Board. It is pointless to even speculate the results of the Canvassing Board based upon these guidelines, much less announce the issue is "solved".
MPR should leave the work of the Canvassing Board to the Canvassing Board, and STOP declaring that MPR knows what the Board will do before they even meet. You are acting in an anti-democratic fashion. Let them do their jobs they were hired to do.
I thought that all machines spit overvotes back at you across the state, so I'm a bit confused. I know ours do in Ramsey. If you do overvote, it won't take it and a poll worker will give you a new ballot (putting hte old one in the "spoiled ballot" bin).
Here's the key sentence that solves our Lizard People ballot question:Um, no. The statute is the law. Rules from the Secretary of State (or any other administrative officer or body) may interpret statutes, but they can't overrule them.
When administrative rules contradict statutes (and, with respect to this ballot, the way you are trying to apply this rule facially violates Minn. Stat. § 204C.22, subd. 3), the statutes win.
So, in short, you're wrong. You are misinterpreting the law and misleading your readers.
Back to 1L year for you....
From Wired Magazine:
"Lizard-People Run the World
If a science fiction-based religion isn't exotic enough, followers of onetime BBC reporter David Icke believe that certain powerful people — like George W. Bush and the British royals — actually belong to an alien race of shape-shifting lizard-people. Icke claims Princess Diana confirmed this to one of her close friends; other lizard theories (there are several) point to reptilian themes in ancient mythology. And let's not forget the '80s TV show V."
This would seem to indicate that this was a commentary on the candidates who appeared on the ballot, rather than a vote for one of them.
The "lizard people" decision is absolutely wrong. The person DIDN'T vote for lizard people for Senate, since the oval is not filled in. He/she obviously meant to vote for the Lizard People in the race above (and did), but initially wrote the candidate's name in the wrong box.
Regarding the "Bachmen" ballot, it is CLEAR Coleman should get the vote. The voter filled in Coleman's bubble, and when he saw the next section titled "U.S. Representative," wrote in Michelle Bachmann -- he just did it accidentally ABOVE the title for the section instead of IN the section. He meant to vote for Coleman for Senate and Bachmann for House. That's the voter's intent and it should be counted.
another reason this information is incorrect and the lizard peple ballot far from decided:
Look at the example picture it gives regarding write-ins. NONE of the ovals are filled in, which is not the situation in this case. I interpret "Count all printed names with a mark made opposite them and all names written-in, not exceeding the number to be elected for that office" to mean that printed names w/ a mark beside them count and write-ins, even with no mark beside them, count.
but it doesn't speak to the question of writing in one, but voting for another, as is the case with the lizard people ballot.
What if the Bachmen -are- the Lizard People? Then shouldn't they get two votes, in the interest of fairness?
Or hey, maybe giving the dimwitted and senile "a political voice," despite not being able to follow simple printed directions that a 1st grader could follow, is itself a dimwitted and senile idea.
I can say, because I know the guy who did this, that he is a moron. He thought it would be funny. Now he gets 5 minutes of fame. It is sad really...
Cedwyn, your parsing of the syntax is incorrect. Your interpretation only makes sense if the language is "Count all printed names and all names written-in with a mark made opposite them..."
And to Rieux's point, there have been recounts in MN before. There are precedents. As it's written it's pretty clear, and from looking at the document it seems that all of these examples are basically based on previous cases.
Plus just read the MN statute ---
""If a voter has written the name of an individual in the proper place on a general or special election ballot a vote shall be counted for that individual whether or not the voter makes a mark (X) in the square opposite the blank.""
That's definitive. If you write a name in, it's a vote. Two marks means I agree with the author --- it's a overvote.
I bet Than Tibbetts will never say anything solves a problem again!
You just got a big lesson in reporting politics. Hope the bosses don't come down on you, too much.
In all earnestness, good job finding the guide - it does add a bit of perspective to the conversation
aaron - i do not think it means what you think it means.
"If a voter has written the name of an individual in the proper place on a general or special election ballot a vote shall be counted for that individual whether or not the voter makes a mark (X) in the square opposite the blank."
to conclude that the lizard people is an overvote requires one to assume that a write-in vote without a mark should count, even in the presence of a completed bubble for a different candidate. and it just doesn't say that - that is NOT supported by the language cited, no matter how one twists it.
the text doesn't address the question in this situation at all. otoh, there is support for my working definition, namely in the picture accompanying the text you quoted. there is NO oval completed in the example.
this was very clearly a vote for lizard people for prez and franken for senate.
For everyone who commented on the voter's intention, I know who the voter is, and he did vote Lizard People for every race. When he got this part of the ballot, he realized he wanted to vote for Franken, after writing Lizard People, but before filling in the circle. His intention was to vote for Franken.