The New York Times
, andÂ David WeigelÂ of Reason
, about the design of North Carolina`s ballot, which allows voters to vote the straight party ticket but makes the choice of President a separate option, a choice adopted in the Sixties, when Southerners were likely to vote for Goldwater
or Nixon while still voting for Democrats locally.
Not surprisingly, North Carolina has an unusually high rate of undervotes, ballots that do not record a vote for president. In the last two presidential elections, the rate has been about double the national average.Poor ballot design is a burden on all voters. Less-educated voters and the newly enrolled are even more likely to be confused and to end up not casting a vote for president.This year, North Carolinaâ€™s flawed ballot could again result in tens of thousands of votes being lost. That is particularly worrisome since polls indicate a very close presidential race in the state. And as we saw in 2000, a presidential election can be decided by a mere 537 votes.
And Weigel writes
The problem is democratic. Any majoritarian system is, by its nature, going to rely on the involvement of masses of dumb people who can`t read or understand rules very well. Any ballot tweak meant to increase voter choices or simplify one part of the process is going to accidentally disenfranchise people who don`t understand the rules. In 2000, this literally cost Al Gore the presidency. Not old people misreading butterly ballots, that is. People who didn`t get the rules.
And here he`s linking to a New York Times
story from the year 2000, which reminds us what the real problem is—errors by African-American voters.
Democrats in Duval County prepared meticulously for Election Day. They registered thousands of voters and ferried enough people to the polls in predominantly African-American precincts to give a solid boost to Vice President Al Gore in a county expected to swing reliably into Gov. George W. Bush`s column.But the results of Duval County`s vote left Democrats here shaking their heads. More than 26,000 ballots were invalidated, the vast majority because they contained votes for more than one presidential candidate. Nearly 9,000 of the votes were thrown out in the predominantly African-American communities around Jacksonville, where Mr. Gore scored 10-to-1 ratios of victory, according to an analysis of the vote by The New York Times.The percentage of invalidated votes here was far higher than that recorded in Palm Beach County, which has become the focus of national attention and where Democrats have argued that so many people were disenfranchised it may be necessary to let them vote again. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have demanded a hand recount or new election in Duval County.Local election officials attributed the outcome to a ballot that had the name of presidential candidates on two pages, which they said many voters found confusing. Many voters, they said, voted once on each page. The election officials said they would not use such a ballot in the future.Rodney G. Gregory, a lawyer for the Democrats in Duval County, said the party shared the blame for the confusion. Mr. Gregory said Democratic Party workers instructed voters, many persuaded to go to the polls for the first time, to cast ballots in every race and "be sure to punch a hole on every page.""The get-out-the vote folks messed it up," Mr. Gregory said ruefully.If Mr. Gregory`s assessment is correct, and thousands of Gore supporters were inadvertently misled into invalidating their ballots, this county alone would have been enough to give Mr. Gore the electoral votes of Florida, and thus the White House.The voters turned out by Democrats, Mr. Gregory said, took the instructions to vote in every race to mean: "I`ve got to vote for Gore. I`ve got to be sure Bush doesn`t get elected. I`ve got to vote on every page."[Democrats Rue Ballot Foul-Up In A 2nd County By Raymond Bonner With Josh Barbanel, November 17, 2000]
This means any voting procedure to really, really, simple will have a disparate impact
and will lead to African-Americans disenfranchising themselves.(Not that they seem to have been interested in voting in the first place. )
These are all the people ACORN is trying to register to vote—people who`ve never bothered to register themselves, can`t be bothered to get to the polling station, and then when they get there, can`t follow simple written instructions. Steve Sailer wrote about this eight years ago in Florida Foul-Up Focuses Attention on America`s Huge but Hidden Minority: The Easily Confused.
"As the Palm Beach / Duval examples show, it will never be easy to make things easier for the unintelligent. But it`s time we at least thought about it. And the single most obvious way to help our fellow Americans who lost out in the genetic IQ lottery is to not import unskilled immigrants to compete against them and drive down their wages."