Voters to Get Help Casting Some Ballots

Aug 15, 2013

Credit NPR

Virginians who undervote or overvote but leave before the machine accepts their final ballots will be able to get some extra assistance from local election officials.  That’s due to a new regulation adopted this week by the State Board of Elections.  The extra step may not make much of a difference in lopsided elections, but it will help every vote get counted in the close ones.

“Undervotes”—or not choosing candidates for every office on a ballot—are not unusual.  For instance, 52-thousand more Virginians voted last year for President than Senator.  Also common are “overvotes”—or marking TOO many names—such as when 65-thousand Floridians picked TWO presidential candidates in the 2000 election. But State Elections Policy Analyst Myron McClees says to help prevent that, many voting machines now inform people if there’s an under- or overvote.

“If a person were to place one of those ballots into an optical scan machine within the Commonwealth of Virginia, it would say, ‘We have detected an overvote.  Would you like the ballot to be cast as is or would you like to receive it back?’”

But after that unexpected pause, voters have sometimes walked away without casting FINAL ballots, which could leave their votes uncounted.  McClees says the new rule should help. 

“So, this regulation specifically just allows an election official to cause an electronic counting device to accept a ballot in the absence of a voter.”        

If the ballot is not corrected, the overvoted office still won’t be counted, but all other offices and undervotes will.