Love me two times
Yesterday's discussion of the duplicate primary election ballots I have received from the Multnomah County Elections folks merits some elaboration.
First, let's talk again about the situation with Ben Westlund, independent candidate for governor. Some readers don't have this right -- and given the weirdness of a recently adopted state law, I don't blame them, as it's hard to believe. As explained by both the Westlund campaign and the Oregon Secretary of State's office, if you turn in a major party ballot in the primary -- either Democratic or Republican -- any signature you place on a petition for Westlund won't count. Your primary vote will still count, but your signature won't.
An important hitch comes in the fact that if you're a member of either of the two major parties, both your partisan primary races and all the nonpartisan races (such as judges, Portland City Council, and Multnomah County commissioner and chair) are all on one and the same ballot. And if you return that major party ballot, you're disqualified from signing for Westlund even if you vote only in nonpartisan races. Despite some confusion on the part of commenters on yesterday's blog post, that much is fairly clear. Unless and until the recent state law is changed (can't happen this year), reinterpreted (which I doubt will happen), or declared unconstitutional (which could take years), that's the way it is.
Here is the Democratic Party ballot, and here is the nonpartisan ballot. As you can see, the nonpartisan races are included on the Democratic ballot; if you are a registered Democrat, and you send back that ballot, your signature on a Westlund petition is toast. (For some further discussion, see pages 21 and 22 of this official Secretary of State handout.)
The questions raised by duplicate ballots are not so easily answered, but a few points have come into focus. A reader who's in the know (county elections director John Kauffman) writes in on this subject:
When voters change party close to the cutoff, we cannot avoid sending two ballots because we have to prepare the first mailing a couple of weeks prior to the voter registration cutoff. However, when the new party change is made, the first ballot is voided in our system. We will only accept the ballot with the latest change (not the first ballot we receive if the voter sends in both.) We do not turn in double voters to an auditor, they go to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General investigates.An alert reader, Jenni Simonis, adds some additional useful information, which can be illustrated by the outer return envelope that came with each ballot I got -- one Democratic and one nonpartisan:
We do check registrations with DMV, however, voters often transpose numbers and we do make data entry errors. The beauty of vote by mail, to me, is that we have time to solve problems before election day.
When ballots come in, the barcode on them is scanned. This barcode is unique to every ballot. If you were to send in the partisan ballot, the computer pops up and says this is an inactive ballot. The moment your registration was changed, the first ballot printed was inactivated and is ineligible for voting.Makes sense.
The ballots are sorted by precinct and put into "batches." These batches allow a person checking signatures to put in the batch number and bring up all the signatures in that box.
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I encourage you to sign up to go into the elections office and watch how everything is done. It's a very interesting process, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work in the Multnomah County Elections Office in 2004. It gave me a whole new view of the election process. I'd worked elections in Texas, but that was on-site voting in your precinct. It was nothing like working in the elections office here.
And so, to sum up:
1. If you are registered as a major party member, and you return your partisan ballot, or even an empty major party ballot envelope, any signature you make for Westlund will not count. And if you're a major party member, the Secretary of State considers your ballot a major party ballot, period. Even if you vote only in nonpartisan races.
2. If you recently changed from a major party to independent, got two ballots, and vote the independent one, there is a way for the county to see that you voted nonpartisan, not partisan. Let's hope that means that your Westlund signature will count.
3. If you recently changed from a major party to independent, got two ballots, and vote the partisan one, or even just use the envelope that came with the partisan one, you're just wasting a stamp, because your ballot won't be counted.
This post was updated this afternoon, after I got the comments from Kauffman and Simonis.