Those space age optical scan voting machines that were supposed to
enrich a company in Omaha reduce overvotes have backfired spectacularly, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, which found that in the 2010 election, 20,000 voters in New York State did not have their votes for governor counted because the machines read their choices as "overvotes" (the invalid selection of more than one candidate). And most of the invalidated ballots were cast in areas with higher populations of low-income residents, people of color, and immigrants.
The report's authors write that "in a presidential year, with nearly twice the turnout, we expect that the number of votes lost because of overvoting would more than double, possibly resulting in more than 100,000 lost votes." The irony, they say, is that the federal mandate to purchase new machines was specifically meant to reduce overvotes nationwide. And if the new machines just so happen to swing elections to Republicans by disenfranchising voters in Democratic strongholds, well that's just
icing on the cake A COINCIDENCE.
According to the study [below], the highest rates of overvoting were reported in neighborhoods with large non-white and Hispanic populations. Across NYC, black and Hispanic voters were more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white voters to have votes voided as a result of overvoting. Data shows that the six election districts in NYC with the highest overvote rates were in one polling place: P.S. 65 on 677 East 141st Street in the South Bronx. And "the large Hispanic population in these high overvote election districts suggests that voters with limited English proficiency might overvote at higher rates than the rest of the population," the authors say.
Larry Norden, the Brennan Center's interim director, speculates that most people don't know the phrase "Over Voted Ballot" means too many votes were cast for the same race, and he believes the green "accept" button at the bottom is throwing voters off. "Our concern was that a lot of people, not understanding what that message meant, would just go ahead press 'accept' — green seems like a good thing, it seems like a way to get your vote to count. In fact, what ends up happening in those circumstances is that your vote doesn't count," he tells WNYC.
It's a damning report, but the authors say the good news is that the New York State Board of Elections has agreed to adopt a better overvote warning, hopefully in time for the November 2012 election: "Such a warning will inform the voter of the problem in plain English ('you have filled in too many ovals'), and clearly explain the consequences of casting an overvote ('your vote will not count')."