absentee ballot fun
October 1, 2004 9:49 AM   Subscribe

So I saw this image online (of a Michigan absentee ballot...which arrow is for Kerry, and which is for Bush?) and it made me think, what the hell is going on with this election? On the one hand, I'm told your vote might just be worthless if you use electronic voting machines but on the other hand the alternative (in my state, at least) is to use an absentee ballot, which, according to some, might be easier, if only because I can have members of a political party help me fill it out.
posted by taumeson (49 comments total)
now, i'm no poli sci major, but i'm pretty sure i know what representative democracy looks like....and this ain't it. are there any states that don't have their heads completely up their asses when it comes to this? what the hell happened to our voting process?

and don't get me started on gerrymandering.
posted by taumeson at 9:56 AM on October 1, 2004

Is it just me, or does the BUSH/CHENEY column have no, uh, thingy next to it?

What are those, anyway?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2004

To me it looks like that ballot was photoshopped or something, to move down the row of arrows. I'm finding it dificult to believe someone wouldn't catch that all along the line.

Also, what's with the stunted arrows on the right side? :P
posted by abcde at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2004

Civil_Disobedient: Well, thing is, Kerry/Edwards has the first thingy/arrow next to it, as the whole set is shifted down. Which means plausably a check next to first arrow could still be deemed to represent Bush, even though it points to Kerry.
posted by abcde at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2004

Taumeson - Do you know which county/township, whatever those came from ? How did you come across this ?

Are they the statewide ballots ?

This story deserves promotion. A quick Google search down to the first 20 hits pulled up nothing.

Plus, it hasn't showed up on Unknown News
posted by troutfishing at 10:18 AM on October 1, 2004

Um yeah, if this isn't electoral fraud then it is, at the very least, misleading and decietful.

It blows my mind that they are going to still try to steal another election with this bullshit vote fixing.

I would highly recommend that ANYONE with a question about their ballot ask the election officials for information. They are there to help make the election valid.

And I'm sickened by the bullshit.

Still happy that Bush got his ass kicked last night though.

Troutfishing, I googled a couple of names on the ballot and it looks like Robert Beracy is the sheriff of Gratiot County in Michigan.
posted by fenriq at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2004

Why doesn't someone send this to the Michigan Democratic party for validation - true or photoshopped ?

Michigan Democratic Party
606 Townsend Street
Lansing, MI 48933
Voice: (517) 371-5410
FAX: (517) 371-2056

posted by troutfishing at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2004

fenriq - it still could be photoshopped though, to discredit people who make noise about real fraud.

I sent an email. if others do it as well, we might get to truth of this.

Then, it might be vetted as a valid, newsworthy story.
posted by troutfishing at 10:29 AM on October 1, 2004

I just called the Michigan Secretary of State, elections department. The lady hadn't heard of any stink about the ballot, and send me to Brad ... forgethislastname's voicemail. I left a message asking whether I could find an official copy of the ballot online.

It's just inconceivable barely conceivable that something like this could happen.
posted by spacewrench at 10:30 AM on October 1, 2004

Also, what's with the stunted arrows on the right side?

I think with this type of ballot, you complete the arrow with your pencil, and it then gets read by an optical scanner. It's a similar concept to fil-in-the-ovals, but less intuitive, or at least less familiar.
posted by stopgap at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2004

The jpg of the ballot is on personal website which contains nothing but pics, a video clip one level up, and nothing but "foo" at the root URL. It was just set up in the last 3 months and seems to be merely a travel pic site.

That would be consistent if the owner is overseas.

Still, why wouldn't he complain to anyone ?

Nonetheless, this could be real.
posted by troutfishing at 10:46 AM on October 1, 2004

Has any one else taken a look at this jpeg in Photoshop at 700+%?

I am by no means a professional debunker, though compared to the rest of the ballot at this magnitude: it seems real.
posted by tenseone at 10:50 AM on October 1, 2004

this is what I love about mefi. keep up the great investigative work!
posted by evening at 10:51 AM on October 1, 2004

WTF aren't these forms being designed by experts? There's no way in hell that form had any input from an appropriately-educated human interactions designer.

I don't think the USA takes its elections very seriously.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:52 AM on October 1, 2004

tenseone - I could be real, it could be a fake. Anyone with even a moderate level of Photoshop expertise could have faked it.

Here's the U/Michigan newspaper staff contact info : they might be willing to hop on and verify or debunk this ballot. Other news orgs in Michigan might be interested in this as well. But, I'm off to other tasks.


Tomislav Ladika, Managing Editor

EDITORS: Alison Go, Carmen Johnson, Andrew Kaplan, Emily Kraack
STAFF: Farayha Arrine, Melissa Benton, David Branson, Adrian Chen, Ashley Dinges, Adhiraj Dutt, Victoria Edwards, Yasmin Elsayed, Chloe Foster, Cianna Freeman, Donn M. Fresard, Michael Gurovitsch, Marie Handfield, Aymar Jean, Anne Joling, Michael Kan, Genevieve Lampinen, Melton Lee, Justin Miller, Naila Moreira, Jameel Naqvi, Kristin Ostby, Lindsey Paterson, Koustubh Patwardhan, Kristin Przybylski, Mona Rafeeq, Lucille Vaughan
Jason Z. Pesick, Editor

ASSOCIATE EDITORS: Daniel Adams, Jennifer Misthal, Suhael Momin, Sam Singer
STAFF: Katherine Cantor, Jasmine Clair, Zachary Denfeld, Sara Eber, Daniel Faichney, Jared Goldberg, Emily Hanan, Jeff Segal, Chris Zbrozek
CARTOONISTS: Sam Butler, Colin Daly
COLUMNISTS: Sravya Chirumamilla, Jasmine Clair, Steve Cotner, Joel Hoard, Sowmya Krishnamurthy, D.C. Lee, Elliot Mallen, Zac Peskowitz, Jordan Schrader
posted by troutfishing at 11:01 AM on October 1, 2004

jebus, I hoped this is photoshopped.
posted by dig_duggler at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2004

and I also hope this is photoshopped : )
posted by dig_duggler at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2004

The ballot has now also been mentioned at Daily Kos. With a different image of the ballot Here
posted by FreezBoy at 11:09 AM on October 1, 2004

five fresh fish: It would be fairly usable if it weren't for the alignment error in the presidential section.
posted by abcde at 11:27 AM on October 1, 2004

This just seems bogus. First of all, this is only a ballot for the 93rd district in Michigan, which is part of Gratiot and Clinton Counties, so even if it's real, it is not a statewide ballot.

If you look at Clinton County's website, they actually (wow) have a pdf of the ballot, which doesn't have that error. The 93rd district ballot is in the PDF, under Bengal township. At least Clinton County got it right.

I guess that it's hard to believe that this is real, because absentee ballots would be in a lot of peoples hands, and it would make good press.

Plus, I know everything there possibly is to know about Nintendo Entertainment System games from 1982-1989, so I know what I'm talking about on this. Fear Me, Dan Rather!
posted by ulotrichous at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2004

Maryscott's reply on Kos says that the printing error has already been corrected and the new ballots sent out. I would find it difficult to believe that it wasn't some Republican operative that did this.
posted by abcde at 11:33 AM on October 1, 2004

Just got a return call from Brad Wittman, the gentleman I left a message for earlier. He hadn't heard of the problem, and wasn't able to get to the websites while I was on the phone with him. I've sent the following letter with URLs; perhaps we'll hear more from him shortly.

Thank you very much for returning my call. Here are links to several images that people have posted, that purport to be Michigan absentee ballots. I don't know whether they're just galley proofs, doctored scans, or actual ballots sent to voters. However, if they're real, they certainly look confusing.

I hope this doesn't turn into too much of a headache for you. Best of luck with your operations next month.

dave madden

The first image I saw:


A story at a website I'm not familiar with; I don't know if they're reliable. However, one of the comments states that the ballots were sent out, and that correction ballots have been mailed.


Another image of the ballot:


posted by spacewrench at 11:42 AM on October 1, 2004

Slightly off topic: Am I reading this correctly? You have an option on this ballot to vote a straight partyline ticket? Do I take this to mean that all you do is check this -- voila -- you're done?

If so, that's soooo-ooo wrong (and not an option where I live). If someone can't be troubled to go through, read the friggin' ballot and vote for the person they want they shouldn't be voting. Democrat or Republican.
posted by RavinDave at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2004

folks, this is an absentee ballot from a student at the university of michigan.

it was the real deal. i don't know who that ann_arbor_ypsi person is, but that clipped photo was off of the original scan (whose address i'm not giving out for bandwidth reasons)

as far as the company goes:

Miller Consultations & Elections, Inc., 231-869-4349

dailykos didn't mention that.

and as to where this ballot is from: it's from a town called "Alma", near Ann Arbor.

and on preview: yeah, straight party line....i used to think that was always an option. weird, hmm?
posted by taumeson at 12:25 PM on October 1, 2004

RavinDave: It's standard practice. Most party members go down the list and vote for their party anyway when they don't know anything about a given race. I like the idea of expediting that really.
posted by abcde at 12:38 PM on October 1, 2004

Enter at your own risk. No matter how many times you've voted, you're not ready for what you'll find on Election Day 2004.
(The Other Paper - Columbus Ohio)
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:58 PM on October 1, 2004

I'm thinking it's time to build a coalition of willing nations and bring you guys democracy.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:32 PM on October 1, 2004

taumeson - that's quite helpful. Miller Consultations & Elections, Inc. printed the apparently deceptive ballots, eh ?

That's a big, smelly "oops" on their business rep, it seems.
posted by troutfishing at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2004

"If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election cycle."

-- State Rep. John Pappageorge, R-Troy

Yup, that's a direct quote. Commentary here. Perhaps this quote and this latest flap (if it is genuine) could be related?
posted by clevershark at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2004

From Brad Wittman in the Michigan Secretary of State's office:
Thanks for the sites. The ballot printing error is confined to a single precinct in the City of Alma. Approximately 69 ballots containing the error were released to voters on Monday, September 27. On Tuesday, September 28, a voter called the clerk to alert her to the error. Arrangements have been made to send the 69 voters replacement ballots. The clerk expects to receive corrected ballots on Monday, October 4.

In the meantime, a voter who received one of the misprinted ballots posted a scan of the ballot on the web. This has created far more interest (an outrage) than what is warranted.
It seems weird that each precinct would print its own ballots, but who knows? I hope the printers & election officials in the other precincts / counties are a little more careful...
posted by spacewrench at 2:18 PM on October 1, 2004

This has created far more interest (an outrage) than what is warranted.

Um, bullshit.

This kind of printing/design job could have been handled better by a 9th grader. Any ninth grader. This ninth grader.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:46 PM on October 1, 2004

Everything is about Bush and Kerry. What about me? I would be trying to go Libertarian and end up casting a vote for those Natural Law freaks!
posted by thirteen at 3:09 PM on October 1, 2004

This kind of printing/design job could have been handled better by a 9th grader. Any ninth grader. This ninth grader.

Thing is, C_D? I don't think they are supposed to let George Bush design the ballots.
posted by contessa at 3:09 PM on October 1, 2004

Approximately 69 ballots containing the error were released to voters on Monday, September 27.

I don't see any reason why the guy would lie, but this sounds like such complete and utter bullshit. How the hell would a mere 69 ballots get misprinted out of the thousands upon thousands of identical forms they printed? Someone please present me a sensible explanation.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:54 PM on October 1, 2004

69 ballots

Damn those kinky Republicans.
posted by gyc at 4:01 PM on October 1, 2004

Someone please present me a sensible explanation

fff: I thought it was weird, too, that ballots would be printed on a precinct level. But, on further reflection, I realized that ballots have to be different on at least the congressional district scale, because you wouldn't want to list all the congresscritters on every ballot. Also, there are probably local bond measures and other things that are only relevant within one subportion of the state or another. So that explains not having a consistent, statewide ballot. It doesn't explain why they don't have a statewide template, with the main races & etc. listed first, and then blanks for each locality to fill in its own local candidates and ballot propositions before printing, though.

69 ballots seems like a rather small number, but on the other hand, it is absentee ballots, which must be requested. Perhaps it's not that surprising that only 69 people in a little town in the middle of Michigan were going to be away from their regular polling place on election day.
posted by spacewrench at 4:59 PM on October 1, 2004

well, i am one voter in one county in one township, but i have a michigan absentee ballot in my hand at this moment. it does not contain the "error". i'm very suspicious of that photo. here's the (poorly lit) ballot i have in hand, received last week.

posted by quonsar at 6:10 PM on October 1, 2004

and upon reading the rest of the comments - never mind!
posted by quonsar at 6:12 PM on October 1, 2004

thousands upon thousands of identical forms

there are a lot of elections on that day. down to the district level and beyond, in michigan. it is quite possible and not at all unusual that absentee ballots would differ when the residents live only a few miles apart. or even on opposite sides of the street, if it's a district or township boundary. you are too gullible.
posted by quonsar at 6:24 PM on October 1, 2004

How the hell would a mere 69 ballots get misprinted out of the thousands upon thousands of identical forms they printed? Someone please present me a sensible explanation.

He didn't say only 69 were misprinted. He said only 69 were sent out.
posted by anastasiav at 9:42 PM on October 1, 2004

I think it's possible this may have happened. Here in Boone County, Missouri, the logos for the Democratic (Donkey) and Libertarian (Statue of Liberty) parties were switched on all our ballots for about three years. That's not so serious, but if someone wanted to vote a straight party line ticket and just saw the logo and not the text, it'd lead to confusion.
posted by zsazsa at 11:31 PM on October 1, 2004

it's clearly a error that a printer made ... these things do happen, people ... and close inspection of the form reveals that the arrows weren't moved down a notch ... but the arrow that's supposed to indicate a vote for bush is just missing

i hardly think the republicans would want that, would they?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:35 AM on October 2, 2004

nah, it's not missing...they ARE moved down a notch. do a count of candidates (plus the write in) and then do a count of the arrows.

69, cause it's only absentee ballots...that really does NOT sound that bad...but it shows you the level of respect people have for the voting process anymore.
posted by taumeson at 6:40 AM on October 2, 2004

I'm going to some assertions :

1) These ballots are quite real, and the mistake was intentional - because absentee voters will tend to vote democratic.

2) This sort of bullcrap is happening in a thousand places or more across the US, and through a wide variety of sleazy methods.

3) There are LOTS of people watching for these types of sleazy, traitorous attacks on American Democracy, and those traitors who perpetrate these vicious assaults on America itself should realize that if John Kerry wins, they WILL be called to account and brought to justice.

So - mr. "Sneaky terrorist-like attack on the American Democratic process" - how lucky do you feel?
posted by troutfishing at 7:10 AM on October 2, 2004

Ah, only sixty-nine sent out, out of a couple hundred printed. That makes much more sense.

Although I still don't understand in the least how the arrows could get misaligned. Especially the arrows for the one part of the form that would never, ever differ between forms.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on October 2, 2004

It's ridiculous that they can't coordinate a templating process statewide, so that each element (national races, or statewide races, or county races, etc.) is proofed once and printed on all the ballots to which it applies.

Instead you have x opportunities for mistakes to creep in, where x is the total number of different contests in the state. They're literally producing a brandnew ballot for each neighborhood, and from scratch! Unbelievable.

On preview: I came here from an October 6 doublepost callout link, and I just realized this thread is basically dead. I just spent five full minutes talking to myself. I hate that.

ECHO! Echo echo echo echo
posted by luser at 10:13 AM on October 7, 2004

I mean October 7.

I'm talking to myself again.
posted by luser at 10:17 AM on October 7, 2004

alma? alma's nowhere near ann arbor. it's like 150 miles northwest of ann arbor.

but as a michigan resident i'm glad to see this was limited to just a few people, and that the problem had been corrected.

and luser, some of us are also still chiming in....
posted by caution live frogs at 10:23 AM on October 7, 2004

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