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Switch to new ballot cuts errors in voting.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - Flawed ballots dropped significantly in last month's election in Lane County and other jurisdictions that got rid of punch-card voting, the Oregon secretary of state announced Tuesday.

In a comparison of the 2004 and 2000 presidential elections, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury looked at the number of "overvotes" and "undervotes" in Lane and six other counties.

He found that in all, 0.8 percent of presidential votes weren't counted this year, down from the 2.3 percent that weren't counted in those counties when they used punch cards in 2000.

Anne Martens, Bradbury's spokeswoman, said that in nearly every case, these uncounted votes were undervotes or overvotes. Undervote is the term for ballots that do not register a voter's selection for a candidate or a measure. An overvote occurs when a ballot registers votes for multiple candidates in the same race or both "yes" and "no" on a ballot measure.

Martens said switching to optical scan ballots was the reason for the drop-off.

"Optical scan ballots are just easier to use," Martens said. "With punch cards you sometimes don't punch hard enough where you're supposed to punch, or punch twice when you meant to punch once. It causes more confusion."

In Lane County, the 2000 election resulted in 3,651 undervotes for president, 2.3 percent of the 155,839 presidential votes cast. But the county switched to optical scan ballots before the 2004 election, in which it tallied 1,516 overvotes and undervotes, 0.8 percent of the 187,388 total presidential votes.

Lane County Election Supervisor Roxann Marshall said the drop in undervotes and overvotes was just what officials had expected.

"We knew there would be a significant drop when we converted over," she said.

The 2000 election fiasco prompted a national push to get rid of punch card ballots. Florida's flawed punch card ballots and razor-thin difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore led to confusion over voters' intentions on partially punched out or dimpled chads.

Congress responded by passing the Help America Vote Act, which included grants to help elections offices make the switch.

Lane County's portion came to $470,000, nearly enough to cover the $540,000 price tag for the new optical scan system.

Washington, Lane and Clackamas counties permanently switched from punchcards to optical scan ballots before last February's referendum election. Linn, Polk, Umatilla and Union counties switched from punchcards in 2003. Each county to switch was reimbursed with federal funds under the Help America Vote Act.
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Title Annotation:Elections; State and county officials say undervotes and overvotes dropped in the recent election
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Previous Article:Leaders press for external review.

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