View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Saturday, October 30, 2004

Election Judge Training 

In the background, on Hugh's show, as I read Kerry Spot for the 14th time last night: a woman's voice, talking about how she'll support our troops in combat. Could have been Marilyn Musgrave. Then, "my opponent, Loretta Sanchez..." Locational disconnect, until I remembered that I was listening to Hugh online, and I was getting campaign ads for Southern California.

The election judge training was simultaneously encouraging and worrisome. Encouraging because so many normal people were there, wanting to take care of the process. Worrisome because some of them were barely paying attention, others were having a hard time following fairly simple processes, and at least one woman should have been carrying a drum and a "Count Every Vote Sign." I was relieved to see my old friend Bill Eigles, who theoretically contributes to this blog on an occasional basis, was there. So there's one more precinct where there won't be any shennanigans.

I have seen "flowcharts" of a sort, showing what the election judge should do in different situations, resolving conflicts in the rules, and reducing the number of decisions to be made. Sadly, the state's election judge handbook includes no such flowchart. This is likely to lead to overtaxed elections officials back at the county clerk's office, giving out incorrect, or incorrectly interpreted information about what to do.

There was also no mention of HAVA-tagged voters, those who registered by mail without providing any ID. The trainer was careful to say that lack of ID on a provisional ballot envelope would not necessarily invalidate that ballot. That's true, if there's enough existing registration info back at the elections office. But if there's not, if someone did need ID, the vote won't be counted. People who could have produced ID, but weren't told it was necessary, will have their ballots invalidated.

Here's the rub. The election commission is trying, desperately, to keep election judges from having to defend anything. It's not the judges' job to decide what provisional ballots will get counted, and which ones won't. But this is leading them to have judges avoid making any judgments at all, or give any advice at all about what ID may be necessary to help a provisional ballot count. It's a recipe for confusion and a gaping hole for a lawsuit. The outcome of that lawsuit may very well be to count all provisional ballots, legitimate or not.

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