Editorial: Interpreting Voter ‘Intent': Woes of the Ballot System



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The last time we checked, UC Berkeley was in California, not Florida. Californians are supposedly able to vote correctly. So much for that notion.

A quagmire of nearly West Palm Beach County proportions will, we hope, result in a positive finality: ASUC elections must be moved online.

Presidential hopeful Jen Lee has filed a case claiming a confusing ballot caused many people trying to vote for her to accidentally vote for an opponent.

She's offered to settle outside the unpredictable Judicial Council, proposing a recount with the possible repercussion of an entirely new vote.

Even though ASUC Attorney General Mario DeBernardo says it could cost thousands of dollars, the recount is made necessary by the terribly flawed ballot system-all flaws that would avoidable in an online election.

Those counting the ballots anticipate many voters to make mistakes voting because of the somewhat confusing "instant runoff" system ASUC uses, says DeBernardo. The counters have ways of discerning when a voter has misunderstood the system, such as when the voter accidentally votes for only a first choice and a fifth choice. When this happens, counters are instructed to interpret the "intent" of the voter and count the vote accordingly.

Not only is this whole interpreting business dubious, but on some ballots, the voter's intent is apparently indiscernible. DeBernardo says these are simply not counted.

Just tossing aside votes is inexcusable, even if rare. No votes would end up in the trash can in an online election.

If during the recount the number of indiscernible ballots is sufficient to possibly alter the election, Lee is demanding an entirely new vote for president.

And if a revote is required, so be it. Though a terrible hassle while heading into finals, the revote is necessary to ensure the most democratic process.

Whether or not Lee's case forces a recount or a revote, ASUC senators need to take this dragging mire of an election to heart and enact serious reform.

Moving the elections online would be much cheaper, much easier, much quicker, much less confusing and would probably yield a higher voter turnout.

Some people criticize online elections because they aid certain political machines that have traditional support in the dorms and fraternities, which have superior Internet access.

But their objections hold no merit. Poll booths could be erected on campus with computers instead of ballots, to at least maintain voter demographics.

UC Berkeley is one of only two UC campuses that still spends tens of thousands of dollars paying for ballots that need to be interpreted for "intent." Such a system must be replaced.

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