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OREGON ELECTION 2000

REPORT PREPARED BY

Del Information Services
www.oregonwebsites.com

JANUARY 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

THE OREGON ELECTION

Table - Under and Over-Votes for U.S. President, November 2000

RECOMMENDATIONS

REFERENCES


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The grueling 36-day ordeal in Florida and problems in other areas of the nation have brought widespread public attention to deficiencies in the election process. Recent failures have involved misleading ballots, contradictory counting standards, insufficient resource commitment, inferior voting equipment, and fraud. These situations have resulted in the discarding of well intentioned votes and in a lessening of voter confidence in our democratic process. The intense scrutiny given the recent election appears to have made the American public ready to support and fund needed change in policy, standards, and equipment advocated by experts for decades.

The hardware used to count votes throughout the United States has suffered long-term neglect. Inadequate funds have been allocated for elections. Antiquated voting systems are the result. Election offices are understaffed. Personnel are undertrained and underpaid. Some jurisdictions cannot even keep election directors. Tamira Bradley held this position in Longview, Washington. She was paid $1,800 a month. "I really felt that nobody took me seriously," she says. So she quit to become a waitress at a Sizzler. "I made more money," she said.

This long-term neglect has created so many errors into the process of voting, including the counting of ballots, that it is impossible to know after an election exactly what the totals are and how many people may have been robbed of their vote. Rebecca Mercuri, a computer scientist at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, estimate that at least 2 million ballots did not get counted in the November 2000 election across the country.

Nevada, in trying to make it easier to participate in the voting process, imposes very few restrictions on the use of absentee ballots. Other states such as Indiana have encouraged voter sign-ups by mail and at driver's license bureaus without adequate safeguards being in place. We must never revert back to the days when legal obstacles discouraged or even prevented citizens from voting. Of equal importance to widespread participation, though, must be the integrity of the election process.

The absence of a physical record of each vote is a flaw in direct-recording election (DRE) systems. The presence of an easily tamperable physical record in paper-ballot and card-based systems creates vulnerabilities. Most experts agree that security today is inadequate for "remote" Internet voting systems. These same experts believe that "closed" network systems, used at county polling places, are secure. Most experts believe that advancements in technology, in possibly three to five years, will correct present security deficiencies in "remote" Internet voting.

The determination of how elections are to be conducted is best performed by state government for uniformity reasons. Every effort should be made to consult with and accommodate special circumstances relevant to a specific county or jurisdiction because they are in the best position to understand their community. Control of the actual voting process must remain with counties or similar local jurisdictions. Any changes to the election process must proceed deliberately and judiciously and involve lengthy debate.


THE OREGON ELECTION

Oregon ballots were mailed approximately 2 ½ weeks before election day, sufficient time for voters to complete and return them. In the November 2000 election, 1,558,888 ballots were returned, approximately 80% of Oregon's 1,953,373 registered voters. Oregon's thirty-six counties use a wide variety of voting systems and counters, and verification methods. Clackamas, Lane, Linn, Polk, Umatilla, Union, and Washington use punch card systems. The 622,667 ballots returned from these counties comprised 39.94% of the statewide total and averaged 2.36% in under and over-vote totals while Oregon's twenty-nine other counties averaged 1.13%. Oregon's overall under and over-vote average was 1.62%.

There were twenty-six ballot measures and counties that used paper ballots required two pages. Voters in at least five, Baker, Crook, Douglas, Hood River, Malheur and Lake County, returned only one of two pages.

Approximately 44% of ballots were returned by voters a week before election day. An estimated 40% of voters turned in their ballots between Saturday and Tuesday's election day. As polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, a line of voters delivering ballots stretched for two blocks in downtown Portland. Similar scenes occurred elsewhere across the state. This played a significant factor in the three-day delay before Oregonians and the rest of the world knew who won the U.S. Presidential race in Oregon. University of Portland political science professor Jim Moore stated, "There needs to be a serious look at changing the way the process takes place -- more staff, more machines, whatever it takes to make that happen more quickly."

Because the signatures of Oregon voters are checked against a computer copy, processing vote-by-mail ballots take longer. This procedure created the biggest bottlenecks according to some county officials. In Jackson County, Oregon's slowest to count ballots, computer glitches also bogged down workers. Jackson County, using an optical scanner system with vote counting done by an AIS-550, found that their equipment lacked the ability to read ballots filled in with ink. They have since ordered the pen-reader component.

Although Oregon's voting system is supposed to void duplicate ballots submitted by an individual, there is no central statewide apparatus or database in place. There are no mandatory requirements for when counties should check for multiple registrations. A state or nationwide system would be ideal. The potential for massive over-votes, including widespread fraud exists.

Melody Rose, an assistant professor of political science at Portland State University, conducted a survey after the election in Washington County. Approximately 5% of the 818 respondents said that other people marked their ballots and 2.4% said other people signed their ballot envelopes. This could mean that more than 36,000 of Oregon's 1.5 million voters submitted illegal ballots.

In the November 2000 election, some Oregon voters did not receive an entire ballot, others got an extra one. Portland residents Dawn and Richard Afman found duplicate pages on statewide ballot measures and received no candidates or local measures in the ballots mailed to them. Vicki Ervin, Multnomah County elections director, indicated that replacement ballots needed to be sent to a couple dozen voters in her county after they called saying crucial pages were missing. Ervin stated that the mistakes apparently occurred when some envelopes were filled by hand after the machine that normally does the work jammed. In Baker County, problems in a computer program that labels the election ballots meant that 200 voters got two ballots instead of one. Election staff had to restart the label program several times which probably resulted in duplicate labels, County Clerk Julia Woods stated.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bush vs. Gore that the Florida presidential vote recount, as it was handled, violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause because different counties handled recounts of ambiguous ballots in different ways. It is imperative that Oregon adopt stronger uniform standards. This ruling, in regards to the Equal Protection Clause, may create future controversy and court challenges due to Oregon's practice of not tallying write-in vote selections. It would be argued that since every voter must be treated equally, it is unconstitutional for the state to count and report some valid votes and refuse to count and tally other valid votes.

Federal law requires that ballots and other material be retained for 22 months after an election for President and other federal offices. Oregon's present two year requirement may need strengthening to include all material relevant to each election. Efforts by some states to investigate elections, including discrepancies in computerized vote counting, have been thwarted because vital documents had been destroyed in accordance with state law.

Under and Over Votes for U.S. President, November 2000
(Compiled by Del Information Services)

Oregon
County
Ballot
Return
Voting
System
Counted
By
Integrated
System
Verification
System
Invalid Presidential Votes
Under
Over
Total
Percent
Rank
Baker
8,418(1)
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Hand
131
(1.56%)
29
(0.34%)
-160
1.90%
22
Benton
38,554
Optical Scanner
AIS-550
No
ES&S
245
(0.64%)
83
(0.22%)
-328
0.85%
2
Clackamas
165,692
Punch Card
Card Reader
Yes
DIMS
2,473
(1.49%)
1,132
(0.68%)
-3,605
2.18%
25
Clatsop
16,898
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 4C
No
Digitized
166
(0.98%)
258
(1.53%)
-424
2.51%
30
Columbia
21,423
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 4C
No
Hand
203
(0.95%)
26
(0.12%)
-229
1.07%
9
Coos
29,829
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 4C
Yes
ES&S/BRC
432
(1.45%)
18
(0.06%)
-450
1.51%
19
Crook
8,381(1)
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Hand
75
(0.89%)
29
(0.35%)
-104
1.24%
13
Curry
11,635
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
Yes
ES&S SIRS
101
(0.87%)
21
(0.19%)
-122
1.05%
8
Deschutes
58,390
Optical Scanner
AIS-550
No
Digitized
406
(0.70%)
99
(0.17%)
-505
0.86%
3
Douglas
47,881(1)
Optical Scanner
AIS-315
No
Digitized
494
(1.03%)
167
(0.35%)
-661
1.38%
15
Gilliam
1,116
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
No
Hand
15
(1.34%)
12
(1.08%)
-27
2.42%
29
Grant
4,136
Optical Scanner
BRC Eagle 2
No
Hand
286
(6.91%)
4
(0.10%)
-290
7.01%
36
Harney
3,790
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
No
Hand
50
(1.32%)
6
(0.16%)
-56
1.48%
18
Hood River
8,682(1)
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Election Board
82
(0.94%)
51
(0.59%)
-133
1.53%
20
Jackson
85,586
Optical Scanner
AIS-550
No
Digitized
606
(0.71%)
184
(0.21%)
-790
0.92%
4
Jefferson
6,897
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Hand
69
(1.00%)
44
(0.64%)
-113
1.64%
21
Josephine
37,115
Optical Scanner
AIS-550
No
Digitized
332
(0.89%)
50
(0.13%)
-382
1.03%
6
Klamath
28,187
Optical Scanner
AIS-315
No
Votec
217
(0.77%)
126
(0.45%)
-343
1.22%
12
Lake
3,828(2)
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
Yes
Hand
56
(1.46%)
43
(1.12%)
-99
2.59%
31
Lane
155,839
Punch Card
Card Reader
Yes
DIMS
2,597
(1.67%)
1,054
(0.68%)
-3,651
2.34%
27
Lincoln
21,318
Optical Scan
AIS-550
No
Digitized
149
(0.70%)
51
(0.24%)
-200
0.94%
5
Linn
45,554
Punch Card
Peripheral Dynamics
No
Votec
815
(1.79%)
402
(0.88%)
-1,217
2.67%
32
Malheur
10,529(1)
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Hand
63
(0.60%)
62
(0.59%)
-125
1.19%
11
Marion
114,270
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 4C
No
BRC-SIRS
860
(0.75%)
76
(0.07%)
-936
0.82%
1
Morrow
3,739
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Hand
105
(2.81%)
25
(0.67%)
-130
3.48%
35
Multnomah
299,776
Optical Scanner
AIS-550
No
Digitized
1,658
(0.55%)
1,433
(0.48%)
-3,091
1.03%
7
Polk
29,082(3)
Punch Card
DIS Ballot Tabulator
No
Hand
377
(1.30%)
285
(0.98%)
-662
2.28%
26
Sherman
1,085
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
No
Hand
Not Tracked(5)
-23
2.12%
24
Tillamook
12,540
Optical Scanner
AIS-150
No
Digitized
117
(0.93%)
47
(0.37%)
-164
1.31%
14
Umatilla
23,758(3)
Data Vote(4)
Card Reader
No
Digitized
484
(2.04%)
244
(1.03%)
-728
3.06%
34
Union
12,328
Data Vote(4)
Ballot Tab
No
Digitized
182
(1.48%)
70
(0.57%)
-252
2.04%
23
Wallowa
4,357
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
No
Hand
56
(1.29%)
7
(0.16%)
-63
1.45%
17
Wasco
10,816
Optical Scan
AIS-115
No
Digitized
105
(0.97%)
47
(0.43%)
-152
1.41%
16
Washington
190,414(3)
Punch Card
Card Reader
Yes
DIMS
3,628 (1.91%)
957
(0.50%)
-4,585
2.41%
28
Wheeler
866
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 3P Eagle
No
Hand
15
(1.73%)
10
(1.15%)
-25
2.89%
33
Yamhill
35,945
Optical Scanner
ES&S Optech 4C
Yes
BRC-SIRS
311
(0.87%)
95
(0.26%)
-406
1.13%
10
Statewide
1,558,654
 
 
Yes-7
No-29
 
17,961(5)
7,247(5)
-25,231
1.62%
 

The Oregon Secretary of State Election Division lists ballots returned at 1,558,888. The total above is for those returned for U.S. President. The 234 difference may be attributed in part to factors listed in table notations.

American Information Systems, Inc. (AIS) and Business Records Services (BRC) are now owned by Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S)

ES&S Model 150, Model 550, and the Optech 4C are centralized Optical Mark Read (OMR) systems that tabulate ballots at high speed at a central or regional location. ES&S Model 100 and the Optech 3P Eagle are decentralized OMR systems that tabulate ballots as they are cast.

(1) Paper ballot required two pages. One listed candidates, the other ballot measures. County officials contacted believe that voters returned fewer pages with candidates than those with ballot measures. Counties did not include these in their under and over-vote totals. Data was not kept on exact occurrences.

(2) In Lake County, officials believe that voters returned more pages with candidates than for ballot measures. The county did not include these in their under-vote total. (see above)

(3)Write-in candidates are included in the under-vote total given by the counties of Polk (29), Washington (146), and Umatilla (30). This is attributed to their use of punch card systems and increases their combined under and over-vote total. Washington County includes one write-in vote for Al Gore.

(4) Data Vote is a punch card voting system. It includes a short description of the subject matter being voted upon. (such as a candidate's name)

(5) Sherman County does not track individual under and over-votes and therefore are not included in the statewide total.


RECOMMENDATIONS


Oregon's vote-by-mail procedures are quite detailed. They have been reviewed extensively along with Oregon statutes for this report. The following are suggestions of ways to improve Oregon's election process.

  1. Adopt a uniform voting system throughout Oregon.
  2. Implement a centralized voter registration database to ensure single county registration per voter.
  3. Require an identical ballot per voting system for statewide candidates and ballot measures.
  4. Compile a vote tally for write-in candidates who have filed a write-in declaration of candidacy and who have requested one. (See Bush vs. Gore)
  5. Prohibit the use of punch card voting systems.
  6. Adopt a uniform statewide standard to determine voter intent on a ballot. Decisions are presently made by local workers under the supervision of a county elections official.
  7. Prohibit Oregon election personnel from inspecting and removing loose punch card "chad" as presently allowed.
  8. Before each primary, general, special statewide, or legislative district election, require county election officials to conduct training sessions on election law and election procedure. Required it for all workers involved in the election process. Set minimum training time and uniform procedures per law.
  9. Adopt one statewide standard for rejected ballots per ballot type. Require that documentation be kept when a ballot is rejected.
  10. Review existing standards for clear "audit trails" for disputed vote tallies.
  11. Require that recopied ballots be marked with a state determined (uniform) code instead of initials, a diagonal line, or marks. The "bearing" on voter intent should be determined by strict state law. Presently, it is not.
  12. Match or exceed federal law requirements pertaining to federal office elections. The present 22-month retention standard should include all ballots, including non-deliverable, secrecy envelopes, and all other election related material without exception. Special Election retention, now 90 days, should be lengthened.
  13. Require a mandatory 1% machine recount comparison by each vote-counting machine to ensure that hardware is reporting accurate results.
  14. Ban the use of alternating left and right vote selection along a single column of punch card holes. (butterfly ballot)
  15. Adopt tougher standards to require that same office candidate's and individual ballot measure's are placed on the same page so voters can clearly see the entire list of choices.
  16. Adopt the Federal Election Commission's voluntary standards for computerized elections that include improved certification standards of vote counting systems.
  17. Create a permanent advisory committee to investigate alternative forms of voting systems. Members should be comprised of county elections officials and nonpublic officials.
  18. Strengthen Oregon law to ensure that automatic recounts include all precincts that voted upon the particular ballot measure or candidate.
  19. Place newspaper, radio, Web site, television, and billboard ads to promote voting and to remind Oregonians to update voter registration information. Place signs in government offices. Ask private business to post state government supplied signs. Ask utilities to place notices in customer invoices.
  20. Initiate a voice recorded telephone call system asking Oregonians to vote early and to check ballots for completeness, etc. to help alleviate last-minute votes submitted to drop-off sites as seen in the November 2000 election.
  21. Require recertification of all voting equipment using "logic and accuracy" testing.
  22. Require that county election offices provide bilingual assistance when any language minority group exceeds 5% of the voting age population.
  23. Add an option on Oregon tax returns to allow tax filers to contribution to their county of residence for the sole purpose of improving election processing systems and related services.

For Oregonians to be confident in our election process, they must have no doubt whatsoever that each and every vote counts and that votes cast will be counted accurately, in a timely manner, and in an environment of impeccable transparency and fairness.


REFERENCES


latimes.com: A 'modern' democracy that can't count votes (published by The Oregonian, December 13, 2000) — http://www.cnn.com/2000/ALLPOLITICS/stories/12/11/latimes.votecount/index.html

Ballot Access News: High court expands equal protection for voters (Bush vs. Gore) — http://www.ballot-access.org/2001/0101.html

Oregon Secretary of State: Vote by Mail Manual

Oregon Secretary of State Election Division: Oregon's Voting Systems, Revised September 11, 2000

The Associated Press: Vote-by-mail election in Oregon has glitches, but not that many — http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/local/ball25.shtml

 

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