Saturday, April 4, 2009

Counting paper ballots

The Tedisco-Murphy Congressional race offers lots to talk about, but I'm especially interested in the challenges of counting paper ballots.

NY's lever system has always accommodated paper ballots for absentee voting, provisional voting (when the voter's registration is in question and has to be researched), or a voting machine goes out of commission in the midst of an election. Most often, the number of paper ballots won't change the election results, so they don't get much attention. But, when they could, as in this election, everyone cares.

I'm always astonished at how long and the resources it takes to count paper ballots and the judgement that goes into what gets counted and what gets tossed. Let's watch this one.

No Decision Soon in Upstate House Race - City Room Blog - "Mr. Conklin hesitated to guess when a winner could be named, noting instead that in November’s State Senate race in Queens between the incumbent Republican, Frank Padavan, and City Councilman James F. Gennaro, a winner was not determined until February, and that the results were not certified by the state board until March 10.

“That’s one of the perils of the whole paper ballot system,” Mr. Conklin said. “This will be a massive undertaking, and this is only dealing with the absentees. Out of 155,000 votes cast, we’ll be arguing over the 6,000-plus that come back.”"

Of course, proponents of op scanners (and ERMA) say a sample of paper ballots will verify the electronic vote. And, they say, the existence of paper ballots will make it easy to do recounts.

Do you think paper ballots, either as a sample or as a method for recounts, is the way to go? I think it brings another unnecessary layer of expense and delay, and could throw us into chaos. Imagine having to hand count 155,000 votes.

Photo: from the NY Times - left, Tim Roske/Associated Press; right, Hans Pennink/Associated Press James N. Tedisco, left, and Scott Murphy are neck-and-neck in the special election for the 20th Congressional District.

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