Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mobile Sees Spike in Write-in Voting

I wonder how many of these votes are for me?

Thursday, November 09, 2006
Staff Reporter
Mobile County residents took to write-in voting like it was a new toy Tuesday night, submitting 28 times as many write-ins as they did during the last gubernatorial election.

The write-ins wreaked havoc on election night efficiency and delayed returns for hours, as poll workers have to copy every real name submitted onto a separate piece of paper, according to Roxann Dyess, election coordinator for the Mobile County Probate Court.

"That can be very tedious," she said.

In addition, in about 20 precincts workers did not properly jot down all the write-in candidates, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said. Officials are trying to figure out how to correct the errors, he said.

Election workers and political analysts say the huge increase -- 17,733 write-in votes were submitted for all races in Mobile County Tuesday, compared to 619 in 2002 -- can be attributed to the county's new voting system.

Under the new system, voters use pens to fill out paper ballots. To write in a candidate, all they have to do is fill in the "write-in" bubble and scribble whatever name comes to mind.

Before this year, Mobile County used a touch-screen voting system. To write in a candidate, voters had to touch the write-in button, get a piece of paper and a pen, write a name, and insert the slip into the machine. The same process had to be repeated for every write-in vote.

"For the first time ever, all I had to do was move my pen up and down to cast a write-in vote," said Jonathan Gray, a Mobile-based campaign consultant.

In Baldwin County, which has used the same voting system since 1994, there were no problems attributed to write-in votes, Probate Judge Adrian Johns said. On Tuesday, 5,668 write-ins were cast in Baldwin precincts, compared with 3,080 in 2002.

"The poll workers and public alike are accustomed to our system, so we didn't have any difficulty with write-in votes being cast," he said.

Nearly every other county in the state already used a variation of the pen-and-paper voting system before this year. Mobile County was forced to switch to comply with a state law passed in accordance with the federal government's 2002 Help America Vote Act, which required voting machines be able to produce an "audit trail" that would be used for recounts.

The new voting system was used during the primaries in the summer, but no write-in option existed on those ballot.

Before Tuesday's election, poll workers were trained to deal with write-in votes, but no one expected the vast increase, Davis said. Election officials began getting calls from poll workers about the problem at about 6:30 p.m.

"We were afraid it was going to shut us down significantly," Davis said.

Eventually, sheriff's deputies had to drive to some precincts to retrieve computer cartridges containing election results so the Probate Court could tabulate who won and lost the races.

Election officials will re-emphasize write-in training in the future, Davis said.

Not surprisingly, races with only one candidate on the ballot garnered the most write-in votes, with more than 1,000 for several unchallenged judgeships.

Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas received the most write-in votes against him, with 2,097, or 4 percent of the total. Thomas has been embroiled in controversy recently over several issues, including that two Mobile city judges claimed Thomas sought the expungement of a 1998 DUI arrest of his cousin, David Thomas.

Another troubled politician, State Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, drew the highest percentage of write-ins against her, as 7 percent, or 424 people, voted that way in her uncontested race. Kennedy is president of Bishop State Community College. Both her and the institution have been criticized in recent months over financial and academic problems at the school.

Probate Court officials said they could not let the Press-Register review the list of write-in suggestions on Wednesday because they were not yet certified. Dyess did say that one poll worker described a ballot in which the same name was written in for every judicial race -- Roy Moore.


Don said...

Maybe we can all find out if WORLEYWORLD puts them on the SOS website....huh??

Anonymous said...

So, is it still possible you could be elected governor, or is it too late?

Loretta Nall said...

I think it very unlikely that when my numbers are eventually released that they would be enough to oust Bob and seat me in his place. This story from Mobile is fascinating though.

Anonymous said...

Walker co. checking in to see if we got any numbers yet. I want to know my vote was counted dang it.

Anonymous said...

Good, good, good. Make ballot access easier, and the problem will be reduced!

Sandra Kallander