More than a week after the California Democratic primary, tens of thousands of ballots have not been counted in Los Angeles County. The ballots were cast by independent, “decline to state,” voters who failed to fill in the Democratic oval on the Democratic ballot.
The Courage Campaign’s warning about the ballot design fell on deaf ears:
A few days before the primary, lawyers for the Courage Campaign uncovered the "double bubble" problem -- a shocking requirement that "Decline-to-State" voters fill in a redundant "Democratic" bubble (on a ballot clearly marked "Democratic Party") as well as a bubble next to their preferred presidential candidate. Our legal team realized that -- without the "Democratic" bubble filled in -- the county's optical scanners would void votes for "President of the United States," regardless of voter intent.
Unfortunately, Dean Logan, the Registrar in charge of Los Angeles County, is refusing to conduct a physical hand-count of every "Decline-to-State" vote before the official vote is certified in just a few weeks.
There is concern the uncounted ballots could change the election outcome. The Los Angeles Times has reamed election officials:
Election officials are calling this a glitch, but the outcome was entirely foreseeable. In fact, it has happened before. In the March 2004 election, 44% of crossover ballots were unusable, and in June 2006, it was 42%. With numbers this high, the county registrar should have investigated this matter long before now.
This election season is the most exciting in decades. The race to determine whether the Democratic presidential nomination will go to the first woman or the first African American has drawn voters to polls and caucuses in record numbers, and voters in Los Angeles County were no exception.
Under any circumstances, it's troubling to see a vote go uncounted; it's especially so when history is being made.
History was made in Florida in 2000 when tens of thousands of ballots were tossed out in Palm Beach and Duval counties in a presidential election that was too close to call. The butterfly ballot design nearly triggered a constitutional crisis.
In November, voters will choose between presidential candidates of “stark differences.” If the election is again too close to call, all hell will break loose if voters are disenfranchised by design.
For an update on the LA County ballot mess, tune in to KQED Forum today at 1pm ET/10am PT. An MP3 download of the program is available here.