Friday, October 12, 2007

Electronic ballots change order of candidates' names

Another Dan Onorato screw up is illustrated below. The spec for the voting system is NOT able to be met by the voting machines he purchased.
Electronic ballots change order of candidates' names 'The system that we bought doesn't have the capacity to prevent a voter from voting for a candidate twice if they're listed twice,' he explained. With the old system, a locked lever would prevent someone from voting twice for the same candidate.
The voting machines purchased by Allegheny County are going to the junk heap soon.

Told ya.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Electronic ballots change order of candidates' names
Thursday, October 11, 2007
By David Guo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As is customary, candidates for races in Allegheny County soon will be sent a sample of what the Nov. 6 ballot will look like. A warning: Don't toss it out with the junk mail.

Because of technological limitations in the new electronic voting machines, some candidates may be surprised by their ballot position.

The quirk in ballot position is particularly apparent in this year's school board race in North Allegheny, a predominantly Republican area where a newcomer who won only the Democratic nomination will be listed above four GOP incumbents who won both parties' nominations.

Mark Wolosik, Allegheny County elections division manager, acknowledged the electronic ballots may cause more inquiries than usual. This is the first time touch-screen ballots have been used in a general election involving candidates nominated by both parties for school board, magisterial district judge and Common Pleas Court seats.

Instead of being listed across the ballot, as they were with the old lever voting machines, candidates' names are listed up and down. Also, their names appear only once on the electronic ballots, rather than once for each party that nominated them.

Mr. Wolosik explained why the county decided that candidates for each race should be listed in a single-column laundry list, rather than the familiar grid in which candidates from the same party were listed side by side, spread across the ballot.

"The system that we bought doesn't have the capacity to prevent a voter from voting for a candidate twice if they're listed twice," he explained. With the old system, a locked lever would prevent someone from voting twice for the same candidate.

There's nothing new about one party's nominees getting top billing, Mr. Wolosik said, because state election law has long stipulated that candidates of the governor's party are listed first in order of the number of votes they got in the primary.

What is different, however, is that the new screens may make it harder to see where the contested race is.

"Those who were successful in the primary in winning both sides of the ballot in the past would've essentially been assured victory in the fall," said North Allegheny incumbent Alan T. Shuckrow. "But the way the new ballot will look ... changes the dynamics."

If ballot position means anything -- and many politicians and researchers say it can -- maverick Democrat Carole S. Shepard has gotten an unexpected boost to the No. 1 spot on the North Allegheny ballot, and H. Scott Cunningham, an incumbent Republican, an untimely boot to No. 6 in the list. Five seats are open on the board in North Allegheny, where Republican voters outnumbered Democrats nearly 2-1 at the polls in May.

"I'm liking it," said Ms. Shepard, the top vote-getter as a Democrat who was shut out as a cross-filed Republican.

"I guess I should've won as a Democrat," said Mr. Cunningham, the lone incumbent who didn't win a bid from both parties.

Spontaneous candor aside, both said they hoped voters would look at issues and not the order of the names on the ballot come Election Day.

Most probably will, said political science professor Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Center for Politics and Public Affairs in Lancaster, Pa. But some voters might instinctively cast their votes for candidates one through five. It's something that he, as founder of the Keystone Poll, tries to eliminate as a wild card by rotating the position of questions and names in his poll. "We want to get rid of the list bias," he said.

Mr. Madonna said a long-buried study showed being first on the list might produce up to a 5 percent edge in votes, but that was with the old lever machines. He knows of no comparable study involving touch-screen ballots. "Do I think there's an advantage to being No. 1 or No. 9? The answer is probably yes. Do I know of a study that proves it? No.

"But common sense tells me I'd rather be first than last," Mr. Madonna said, adding, "I think this is an issue we're going to hear more about."

The issue, said Mr. Shuckrow, is that the new screens diminish the value of having won on both ballots in the primary.

"It is really a six-person race now," said Mr. Shuckrow, instead of the contest between Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Shepard that most envisioned.

Mr. Shuckrow and three other GOP incumbents -- Beth A. Ludwig, Maureen Grosheider and Karen Boujoukos -- had essentially been assured victory by winning on both tickets. Under the old system, their names would have appeared twice -- once in the Democrat line and once in the Republican.

Ms. Shepard, who switched parties this year as she faced a GOP logjam, said she had presumed that ballot position in November would be either alphabetical or, as it was in the May primary, by lottery.

She's not complaining about being No. 1, but she said, "at the very local level, it shouldn't be about the political party. ... Pick the five who you think will do the best job."

Mr. Cunningham said voters should look immediately beneath each name to check party affiliation because the GOP incumbents have a record of fiscal accountability and student achievement.

"It does matter in every election whether you vote for a Democrat or a Republican," he said. "There are distinct differences between them, and I would hope that voters will look at those differences."
First published on October 11, 2007 at 10:01 am
David Guo can be reached at or 724-772-0167.