Election cross-over dreams become a nightmare

Last Friday members of the nonpartisan election group, CourageCampaign.org, were surfing the Web when they discovered a blog posting noting that Los Angeles County voters faced what organization spokesman Rick Jacobs calls “bubble trouble.” In order for any of the county's 776,000 voters who have registered Nonpartisan to vote in the open primaries for the Democratic or American Independent parties, they would have to mark an extra bubble on the ballot naming the party for which they wished to cast a cross-over ballot. After a weekend of research, Jacobs says, CC.org contacted the office of L.A.'s Registrar of Voters on Sunday and were told it was true — an extra bubble had to be inked, and, yes, it could prove to be a big headache on election day. The bottom line: If the “declaration” bubble is not inked on a Nonpartisan ballot, the voter's presidential preference would be voided, though not the part pertaining to propositions.

By noon election day, CC.org's worst fears were realized as voters began complaining that poll workers hadn't pointed out the extra bubble. The registrar's office has tried to get word out to its workers about the issue but at this point it's impossible to know how many votes have been lost. One thing is certain, however: It will be impossible to conduct a recount of the cross-over ballots because voters were handed both Nonpartisan and Democratic ballots and there are cases where the bubble numbers for candidates from different parties overlap. While cross-over votes inked on Democratic ballots should be okay, Jacobs says most poll workers were instructed to issue Nonpartisan ballots to crossovers because the registrar's office wants to keep a statistical record of the number of Nonpartisan voters crossing over.

CC.org is asking the registrar's office to expand the normal one-percent sampling it conducts after election day to look for how many Nonpartisan ballots have a Demo presidential bubble inked, but not the intent-to-crossover bubble at the top.

“This is not Florida 2000, it's Los Angeles 2008,” L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti told the L.A. Weekly. Garcetti, a prominent Barak Obama supporter, acknowledged that the bubble snafu could leave a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of voters who will claim that most Nonpartisan cross-over votes would have gone to their candidate.

“Whoever designed this ballot,” Garcetti said, “literally put an extra impediment. Obama is all about bringing people in. To have worked as hard as we have over the last year – I would hate to see the election decided against us because of bad design.”

When asked if he had personally been able to speak with acting registrar Dean Logan, Garcetti said, “We've reached out and have a call in.”

No doubt Garcetti heard what reporters have been hearing all day when they call the registrar's media office: “We're either away from our desks or on another line.”

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