How an Automated Ballot Reader Deals with Errors

Researched and written by member Betsy Bainbridge
At the August 16th social gathering of the LWV, questions arose regarding when the automated ballot readers give an error notification. Nikki Painter and Jennie Hughes at the Jefferson County Voter Registration Office provided the following information regarding error notification by the automated ballot readers.

  • First, the machines are the same all over the state, with the alert system already programmed in by the vendor. These machines have been approved at the state level as meeting required standards.
  • The ballot reader will not count undervotes (skipping an office on the ballot). It will read only those votes correctly marked.
  • The ballot reader will alert for the following errors: (1) A ballot it cannot read (for example, people circle a response instead of filling in a bubble); (2) A ballot that is blank; (3) A ballot that has been overvoted (for example, if a voter can vote for two in a category but votes for three).
  • In each of these circumstances, the machine beeps and a screen shows the error. A poll clerk explains the error to the voter. The voter may ask to have the ballot returned or for the machine to accept the ballot as is (which means the machine will not count the specific choice where the voter made the error). If the voter chooses to have the ballot returned, the poll clerk will spoil the incorrect ballot and reissue a new blank ballot.