Worries Folds On Mail Ballots Will Skew Election Results Unfounded, Registrar Says

Concerns that the mail-in ballots San Bernardino County has used and will continue to use for its election are vulnerable to misreading are misplaced, San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello told the Sentinel this week.
Some activists within the San Bernardino County Democratic Party said that if the ballots have been folded in a certain way, they can potentially be misread by the scanners that electronically tally the votes indicated thereon. The county, which jettisoned its touchscreen voting machines nearly a decade ago, has been using a more dated mode of voting which is, county voting officials maintain, less prone to error. At both its voting precincts and with its absentee ballots which are mailed to those applying to vote by mail rather than at the precinct voting places on election day, the county registrar of voters – the county elections office – utilizes card stock paper ballots. Those ballots feature the names of the candidates vying for various local, state and national political offices as well as yes or no designations for ballot measures and voter initiatives, to the side of each of which is a black arrow and a black horizontally rectangular box. The voter designates his or her vote in each category by using a black ink pen to draw a line connecting the arrow to the box. When the ballots are scanned, the ink line is detected within the spatial relationship between the arrow and rectangular box and is registered as a vote for the designated candidate or as a yes or no vote pertaining to the relevant measure.
Ballots collected at the polling places are not folded and are thus fed into the machine rigidly intact and without any unintended contours. Mail-in ballots, however, are folded and the scanners can, on occasion, misread the folds, or the shadows of the folds or the shape of the folds as a line connecting an arrow with a rectangular box, thus recording a possible unintended vote.
Scarpello this week, while acknowledging it was “theoretically possible” such misreadings would take place, said they have not in actuality or in practice occurred as verified by the hand counts of one percent of the county’s ballots that are done with every election and in every race countywide, which are then compared and contrasted to the electronic tallying of those same ballots.
“That’s one of the myths,” Scarpello said of the narrowly circulated belief that ballot misreading – or electronic misscannings – have impacted or could impact the outcome of an election.
Extrapolating on the non-interference with the vote counting that occurs in the one percent sampling, Scarpello said he had every confidence no significant miscounts have ever occurred because of the ballot folding issue, and he said it was far more certain that such a misreading had never affected the outcome of any election.
Scarpello said there are occasional misreading or misscannings of ballots that occur either because of incomplete erasures of a changed vote or because a voter has circled an arrow, checked it or marked it with an x rather than drawing a line from the arrow to the rectangular box. In a minority of such cases, Scarpello said, what happens is a portion of the circle, check or x strays into the field of the arrow and rectangular box for another candidate or contrary vote relating to a measure or initiative, resulting in two votes on a single measure or initiative – yes and no – being recorded or two candidates instead of one receiving a vote.

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