Mark Those Ballots Correctly

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Hang around the folks who conduct elections long enough and you'll start to see that some voting snafus are hard to prevent.

That's not to say that elections officials are perfect, nor is it to imply that there aren't other serious issues facing voting systems and accuracy. There are. But a quick glance at the county-by-county documents being released by Secretary of State Debra Bowen shows that... in many cases... it's all about voter error.

Bowen is posting the reports filed by county elections officials as part of California's long-standing law requiring a manual recount of a percentage of the ballots cast. Those totals are then matched to the totals tabluated by machines on election day.

When you browse through the reports for the February 5 primary election, you find only slight problems.

Take the 210 votes counted on election day in a precinct in San Bernardino County's Yucca Valley. Turns out, thanks to the manual recount, that there were actually 211 votes cast. The missing vote was cast for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and local elections officials describe the problem as a "light pencil mark"-- one not dark enough to be read by the machines. Democrat Hillary Clinton lost a vote for the same reason in Sonoma County.

In another San Berdoo precinct, the machine counted an extra vote for Proposition 93 (term limits) because of a "stray mark" the voter made on the ballot. Sonoma had a few votes miscounted because the citizen marked two choices, but didn't erase one of them well enough. Similar and rare reports were filed from Kern and Marin counties. And in some pf the counties that have filed their manual recount reports so far, no errors were found.

There's obviously no major news here. It just seems worth noting than in the midst all of the furor over the integrity of voting, there may be no system to safeguard against the most primal of errors: those made by voters themselves.

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About John Myers

John Myers is Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED Public Radio and "The California Report," heard daily on 23 public radio stations across the Golden State.

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