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Ballot may have marginalized voters

May 03, 2013

Were the 21.6% of registered voters who actually turned out for the municipal election last month marginalized by the city clerk?

For the past two elections, all ballots were translated into English, Armenian, Spanish and Korean. For the April 2 election, the sample ballot was limited to just English and Armenian, with officials citing the ballot’s prohibitive cost due to the number of candidates running.

In the City Council race, there were three eligible votes per ballot. The 24,091 ballots cast in that race was reduced by 131 blank-voted ballots and by 140 over-voted ballots to 23,820 eligible ballots or 71,460 votes (23,820 x 3). There were 16 write-in votes, leaving 71,444 votes available to the 12 council candidates.

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Yet the City Council race was decided on only 57,251 votes cast, as not all voters selected more than one candidate. According to my calculations, 14,193 votes, or 19.86% of the total pool of eligible ballot votes, were not cast for a City Council candidate. If only one vote was cast in that race, the ballot was counted, leaving two eligible votes wasted. Was this due to voter confusion on the voting instructions or to a language translation issue? More importantly, how did this impact the candidates who did not have the power of incumbency? How were they impaired by these unaccounted votes? What about the pool of potential voters who decided just to stay home and not participate because of confusion with the ballot instructions?

Kenneth Landon
Glendale

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