One of the goals of the Help America Vote Act was to end the problem of uncounted ballots. One reason they are uncounted is that voters don’t fill them out correctly or completely.
HAVA said voters must be warned about any unvoted portions of the ballot. Counties bought new equipment to achieve this. Touchscreens were supposed to warn people of unvoted races just before the voter finishes. So why are some races undervoted by 20% or more?
Here is a photo of a Florida ballot race for Congress that was missed by nearly 20% of the voters. I can see why it happened. It is just like the infamous butterfly ballot. The problem is in the layout. Ballot designers don’t need new equipment, they just need better graphics.
In the photo the touchscreen is dominated by the race for Governor and its seven choices. The most eye-catching word on the page is “STATE”, which indicates the move from federal offices above to state offices below. It is easy to ignore the Congressional race at the top of the page once your eye lands on the Governor’s race.
I’m guessing the reason the review page at the end of the ballot didn’t prevent this undervote is because of some similar graphic problem.
Paper ballot scanners aren’t much better. My ballot was rejected by the scanner Tuesday. I knew there was a tiny LED screen on the scanner. I looked at it for an explanation, but the message blinked off before I could decipher it. I tried running the ballot in again, thinking I’d check the message more quickly. This time the ballot was accepted! So I never got to fix what was undervoted.
My wife said she left the entire back side of the ballot unmarked. But her ballot was not rejected for undervotes.
Thus we have expensive new equipment that has made much more work for precinct workers and we still have undervotes.