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You Can Play Election Judge


Minnesota Public Radio has posted images of challenged ballots in the State’s Senate election. Listed with each picture is an explanation of who challenged, and why. Each also has a poll question where you can weigh on on how you would judge the voter’s intent.

My first reaction: Both campaigns are nuts. But that is tempered with the realization that their jobs are to be tireless advocates for their candidates. If there’s a way to possibly intrepret a ballot as being for their guy, they have to give it a shot.

My second reaction: These voters are inept. Only one or two are what seem like honest or reasonable mistakes. (The erased one is actually a corrected mistake.) How could anyone survive a decade worth of schooling and not undestand how to fill in a bubble? During my time, there were standardized tests all the time.

The mantra, “You must use a #2 pencil, and <strong>only</strong> a #2 pencil,” is engraved on my neurons. Test-taking had very strict rules. Any minor infraction would result in a particular answer being marked as wrong. I never had an entire test rejected, but it was known to happen. Tests completed with anything other than the proper kind of pencil were used as examples of how not to do things.

I ruled on the MPR images with the same iron hand. A mark in more than one bubble—rejected! Stray marks in the scan area—rejected! In school, we did not have recourse to a recount. We just failed. It should be same for these voters. They failed, but will be allowed to retake the test in next November.

And what about this “identifying mark” crapola? A fingerprint is an identifying mark, for sure. But was it left as an identifying mark? If crime scene investigation works half as good as it does on TV, every ballot has an identifying mark. Invisible (to the naked eye) fingerprints can be left on paper whenever we touch it.

Scribbles, words, or even names are only “identifying marks” when one knows something more about the scribbler. If we found <em>John Johnson</em> written in clear longhand on a ballot, how would we know which John it was, or if it was nothing more than an invented name, the result of trying to get the pen working. Those #2 pencils never failed; there was wisdom in the schools of yore…