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Double Bubble Trouble


Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

LOS ANGELES, CA — This state, with a tradition of high turnout, activist communities and 441 delegates, is the focus of today’s media coverage. But this heightened attention is nothing new. Here, the popularity of elections is sure to expose even the most minute hiccup. Today, there was one.

The process is this: decline-to-state voters who wish to exercise their franchise in the Democratic Primary must ask the poll-workers for a Democratic ballot. Fair enough.

Here’s the trouble: In the voting booth, voters must then mark a bubble on the ballot that confirms the voter is indeed voting on a Democratic ballot. If they fail to mark, their ballots go uncounted. And further, if a voter neglects to fill in this bubble, a voting machine will not return the ballot because the vote is counted as an under-vote. In Los Angeles County alone, 776,000 voters are susceptible to double bubble trouble.

Needless to say, many decline-to-state voters were confused. After all, by requesting the ballot in the first place, voters are already in essence filling out this bubble. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that poll workers have also been uninformed. Decline-to-state voters were denied the right to participate within the Democratic Primary, and were given non-partisan ballots.

20% of Californians consider themselves, and are registered as, decline-to-state voters, yet in this historical nomination process their voice is jeopardized by baffling ballot rules and puzzled poll workers.

Team Why Tuesday? slowly hit the streets of Los Angeles in what seemed like –- to a New Yorker — the worst traffic in the entire universe. And after catching up with Dolores Huerta (video to come), we rushed over to talk with Los Angeles City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo. Concerned for California’s primaries, Rocky told Why Tuesday? Executive Director Jacob Soboroff that he intends and hopes the intent of the voters affected by these mishaps is respected.

Stay tuned to Why Tuesday? for more Super Tuesday coverage from Los Angeles.

6 Responses to “Double Bubble Trouble”

  1. The BRAD BLOG : More Details on 'Double Bubble Trouble' in Los Angeles County Says:

    […] now then, our friend Jake Soboroff at Why Tuesday has a video interview, posted below, with LA City attorney, Rocky Delgadillo who is also expressing […]

  2. All About Race » Blog Archive » UPDATE: California Disgrace Says:

    […] Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s Office – After making a big show of how interested he was in the situation, his staffer brusquely told me that this is a county matter and gave me an incorrect number for the […]

  3. Robert Earle Says:

    Your video is a rather misleading.

    It shows page 1 of the Official Sample Ballot for a voter registered as a Democrat.

    If it were the Sample Ballot for a ‘decline to state’ aka non-partisan voter, there would be a full page of “Special Instructions For Nonpartisan Voters” showing how there would be a “5 ->” next to “American Independent” on the line above “Democrat” in the first box. It is those two lines – the #5 bubble and the #6 bubble – that allow the ballot counting equipment to differentiate the ballot of a non-partisan voting in the Democratic primary from one who is voting in the American Independent primary.

    As presented in the video, the #6 bubble seems redundant and pointless. And on the Democrat ballot, it is. On the actual non-partisan ballot, the #5 and #6 bubbles make all the difference in the world to understanding the intent of the voter, and getting the ballot counted correctly.

    Is it a bad design? Sure. But at this point there is very little if anything anyone can do about any mis-marked ballots.

  4. Robert Earle Says:

    BTW: This is at least the fourth CA time where Los Angeles has used something like this to implement the non-partisan ballots in their ‘semi-closed’ primary system. I’ve been a poll worker chargesd with explaining all this to voters in all four elections.

  5. Cody Cooper Says:

    It is not the Why Tuesday? Video that is misleading, it is Mr. Earle’s unintelligible attempt to clarify an incredibly murky California methodology. Disenfranchisement is disenfranchisement by any other name. If Earle has done this 4 times, then FIX IT, already; and don’t criticize those who are calling you on your inadequacy.

  6. Robert Earle Says:


    You seem to have me confused with the Secretary of State of California, or maybe with the Los Angeles Country Registrar of Voters.

    I am a volunteer who works at one single polling place on election day. I have nothing whatsoever to do with the design of the ballot.

    I do, however, understand the problem, having been in the position of having explained the non-partisan voting procedure literally hundreds of times to hundreds of voters during the last four California primaries.

    My job for twelve hours Tuesday was to check on ballots before they were put into the ballot box. I personally helped about a dozen voters who had mis-marked their ballots correct their marking so that their ballots accurately reflected their intent. No one was disenfranchized at my precinct.

    I’m sorry you found my post to be confusing. If you are interested in a better understanding of my explanation, maybe you could ask a question or two. If, on the other hand, you simply want to vent frustration by name-calling, well, I’m glad to help out there, too.

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