A month ago, I called the county registrar to make certain that I could vote in the democratic primary and confirm that I would get my absentee ballot. I couldn’t remember if I was registered democratic, independent, or green. The woman at the other end of the line told me that all was fine and that I was in the system, no worries. I took this to mean that I was registered democratic because I didn’t know at that point that independents could vote in the primary. I got my absentee ballot in the mail a few weeks later. The ballot said that it was a democratic ballot, but the pamphlet said that if you’re an independent, you have to fill in the #6 dot as well. I was uber confused by this. What would happen if I was registered democrat and filled in the #6 spot? Since I was pretty sure that I was registered democratic based on my conversation with the registrar, I decided not to fill in that extra bubble and moved straight to #9.
As election day panned out, I started hearing about “double bubble trouble” as independent voters were being given democratic ballots but not being told about the extra bubble. Worse, the silly punch machines in the democratic zone at the polling places didn’t have a section for punching that out. Midway through the day, I found out that a friend of mine didn’t vote because the absentee ballot that they sent him didn’t have a democratic section even though he’d wanted this. Then I started hearing about precincts running out of democratic ballots. And pollsters giving people the wrong ballot and not letting them void it for the right one. And on and on and on with the various chaos. So I started wondering: did I do it right? Did my vote count? (I kept the stub but I can’t figure out how to confirm whether or not my vote did count. Anyone know?)
It seems as though the problem that I was hearing was bigger than I imagined. Courage Campaign is reporting that 94,000 independent (“decline-to-state”) voters in LA are having their ballots rejected because of this problem. The registrar in charge of LA County is refusing to check these ballots by hand, thereby invalidating the intent of those voters. As a LA resident who isn’t sure if her vote counted, I’m pretty bloody peeved about this. I’m glad that the LA Sups ordered an investigation, but it seems like this should be obvious and not require external demands.
As I started fishing around to find out more information, I found something alarming. The San Francisco Chronicle originally reported that the Clinton campaign “is mystified by the Election Day complaints from the Obama team, since the rules for decline to state voters – specifically the requirement that request Democratic ballots – have been a matter of public record posted on the California Secretary of State’s web site for months.” (These quotes from the Clinton campaign were removed and the article’s title altered in the version updated 7 hours later.) I hope to god that the Chronicle’s article was changed because they inaccurately quoted the Clinton campaign.
As much as I’m a big fan of Obama, I’m a bigger fan of democracy. I believe that every vote counts, even those that disagree with me. I’m pretty annoyed that my registrar is telling reporters that voters were educated on this. I’m a very educated person who is obsessive about her right to vote and I didn’t understand the bloody ballot. As an average citizen, I don’t care that this requirement was on the website for months. And I sure as hell didn’t look to either candidate for instructions on how to fill in the ballot. Voting instructions should be clear in the instructions that I’m given. And it wasn’t. The ballot didn’t tell me what I was registered. No one at the polling place told me what I was registered. All I knew was that I had a democratic ballot, thought I was registered democratic, and voted for #9. Oh, and I did it in blue pen because I did see the instruction that only black or blue pen would count.
Please please tell me that our democracy is not so broke that people’s votes aren’t being counted in this primary. I mean, if Courage Campaign is right and 94,000 votes in LA weren’t counted, I’m scared. Then again, Chicago voters were told that broken pens have invisible ink. At least LA didn’t stoop that low.