- Nov 10, 2000[After sending out 100+ URL's relating to the US presidential voting
irregularities in Florida, I've stopped collecting URL's from the major
national media (nytimes.com, washingtonpost.com, salon.com, cnn.com).
I'll still collect useful URL's from other sources, at least for now,
but I expect that the major flood is over. I've moved all of the URL's
relating to the election, almost all of which relate to the controversy
in Florida, onto a single page separate from the other URL's from RRE:
That said, here is an actual photo of the contested ballot from Palm
Beach County, which is worse than you might have heard:
Here is an image of the sample ballot that was sent to voters in that
county. Observe that it does not show how the holes are arranged:
Here is a study of the ballot from the point of view of information
design, showing how else it could have been done:
I've enclosed two messages, one by a Democratic Party observer in
the recount room at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections,
and another by an academic expert on the Palm Beach ballot layout.
Both have been reformatted to 70 columns.
Last point. The people who have been sending me personally abusive
e-mail need to realize that they are only strengthening my resolve
that people like them should not be running my country.]
This message was forwarded through the Red Rock Eater News Service (RRE).
You are welcome to send the message along to others but please do not use
the "redirect" option. For information about RRE, including instructions
for (un)subscribing, see http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/rre.html
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 03:44:25 EST
Subject: Florida recount info
Thought you'd like another update from the inside. I spent much of
Wed. as the Palm Beach County Dem. Party observer in the recount room
at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections. Also present were
lawyers and a staffer representing GWB, several lawyers representing
Gore, representatives of the Reform Party, the Fla. Democratic
and Republican Parties, the DNCC, US Rep. Clay Shaw and his Dem.
challenger Elaine Bloom (this race is still contested), a Dem. State
Senator and a Dem. State Representative from the County.
The recount was supposed to begin at 1:30, was delayed until 4:00 and
ended at 11:30. Our role basically consisted of sitting in a cramped
room watching five staffers run stacks of puch card ballots through
counting machines. Pretty dull all in all until it was discovered
that one precinct had not been counted in full. This resulted in a
net gain for Al of about 360 votes. The Bush boys lost their smug
attitudes and began huddling and whispering every few minutes.
The absentees came through for Al too. When one votes at the polls
in Florida, they provide a punch instrument which, if used correctly,
completely perforates the ballot. However, absentee voters often
use a pen or other implement which does not fully perforate the card.
This was apparent to us from the fact that over 10,000 voters in the
County, about 2.2% of the overall turnout did not make any choice in
the Presidential race, but did vote in the US Senate or Congressional
races. We theorized that many voters had partially perforated
the card, but the machines weren't reading them. The more times the
ballots are run through the counting machine, the more likely the
loosened chits fall off.
When the absentees were counted, 221 ballots that had previously
registered no vote now did show a vote in the Presidential race.
These went overwhelmingly for Gore, leading to some whooping and high
fiving from our side. The Bushies really lost it at this point and
got a little hostile with the staffers, which in turn elicited some
harsh responses from the assembled masses.
Gore's net gain in the County was 643. Word from other counties is
that Gore closed the 1,700 deficit by over 1,200. Only half of the
counties conducted their recounts on Wednesday. The rest are on
The bigger problem is that the ballot in Palm Beach County, which
differs in its layout from the ballots elsewhere in the State, is
illegal for several reasons. Florida statutes specifically mandate
the precise layout of the ballot and the order of candidates. The law
was not followed. Bush's name was first, with Buchanan below him and
Gore third. This is completely improper, as well as the fact that the
law requires the names to be placed to the left with the punch holes
to the right of the candidates' names. On this ballot, some names
were on the right and some on the left, with all of the punch holes
in the middle. It was difficult to line up the name with the correct
Moreover, 19,000 ballots were disqualified because they voted for two
or more candidates. This is a direct result of the confusing layout
of the names on the ballot. This represents over 4% of the total
ballots. It was as high as 15% in some predominantly African-American
precincts and about 10% in some precincts with large numbers of Jewish
retirees. The Gore vote in many of these precincts was over 90%.
This explains the networks' exit polling which reflected voters'
belief that they had voted for Gore, but in fact their ballots had
been disqualified. This led to the initial awarding of Florida to
Folks, the bottom line is that if the names on the ballot were
properly situated Gore would have had an additional 11-13,000 vote
margin in this County, and the election would be over. We have done
a precinct by precinct analysis of where the disqualified votes came
from. By attributing the same percentage of the vote Gore obtained
in those precincts to the disqualified ballots, Gore would be winning
Florida by at least 10,000 votes. In other words, Gore has actually
won the election both in the popular vote and in the electoral vote,
but he may well still lose it.
You should also be aware that other large counties in the State
disqualified about one half of one percent of their ballots for
casting two or more votes in the Presidential race. In Palm Beach
County it was 4.4%.
Lastly, don't expect the recount to be over on Thursday, as the media
is stating. Legal actions are underway. The next question, will a
judge order a re-vote just in Palm Beach County with a new ballot?
Steven Meyer '86
Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2000 16:15:51 -0800
From: Don Dillman <dillman@...>
Subject: Palm Beach Ballot
Yesterday I was interviewed by an AP reporter who faxed me a copy of
the Palm Beach County ballot and interviewed me a few minutes later.
I was quoted in her article that appeared today in a number of media
outlets, where I was identified as being from the American Association
for Public Opinion Research. Two things seemed apparent to me after
the phone call. One was that I was likely to be called by other media
people and asked to react, and second, that the visual design issues,
at least as I see them, are somewhat complex.
Consequently, I decided to put together a written statement concerning
the problems I think the ballot exhibits, which I am inserting below
in this message. I am sending this to AAPORNET partly because of the
number of messages that have appeared about the ballot in the last two
days. Also I want to make it clear to the members of AAPOR that I am
speaking as an individual on this issue, and not as a representative
of AAPOR or my employer, Washington State University. Thus, I
have added what I hope is a clarifying statement that this statement
represents my personal opinions based on past research and experiences
in the development of self-administered questionnaires.
November 9, 2000
Statement by Don A. Dillman on Palm Beach County Florida Ballot
Several people have asked for my opinion on whether the format of
the November 7, 2000, general election ballot in Palm Beach County,
Florida, resulted in more people voting for Buchanan that had intended
to do so. This statement is in response to those requests.
I cannot say with certainty whether the format of this ballot affected
a certain number of people who thus voted by mistake for Pat Buchanan,
while intending to vote for another candidate. That would require
knowledge of what specific people did in the voting booth Tuesday,
which I don't have. However, based on my experiences and past
research concerning how the visual format of questionnaires affects
respondents to surveys, I believe it is likely that certain visual
features of the ballot resulted in some individuals who wished to vote
for Gore inadvertently punching the second hole in the column, thus
resulting in a vote for Buchanan. These visual attributes may also
have resulted in double punches as people attempted to correct their
error. However, I do not think that voters who intended to vote for
Bush were similarly affected.
I believe this outcome occurred because of the joint effects of
several undesirable features of the Palm Beach County ballot, rather
than a single attribute. These factors include: (1) the listing of
some candidates for President on the left-hand page of the ballot,
while others were listed in a separate group on the right-hand page;
(2) use of a single column of circles between the pages to register
one's vote, regardless of which page contained the candidate's
name; (3) the lack of familiarity some people may have had with how
to answer a punch ballot printed in this format; (4) the likelihood
that most people knew which candidate they wanted to vote for prior
to seeing any of the choices on the ballot; (5) the location of the
presidential choices on the first pages of the ballot; and (6) the
visual process people typically follow when registering preferences
on a survey questionnaire or election ballot when it is unnecessary
to read all choices (names of presidential candidates, for example)
before registering one's vote. In order to mark their ballot, it
was necessary for people to insert their paper ballot underneath the
booklet that showed the ballot choices. They were then required to
use a stick-pin answering device to punch through a circle on the
ballot to make a hole in the paper ballot.
When people open and/or begin to read material printed in a booklet
format, they tend to look first at the left-hand page and focus
their attention there. Because this is a ballot in which most people
expect to vote on most or all of the choices, it is also likely that
they would expect to answer the questions in order. It is therefore
likely that many voters began reading the left-hand page without
first looking at the second page and seeing what material was printed
there. Thus, they may have been unaware that some of the candidates
for president were listed on the opposite page.
Most people who completed the ballot knew who they wanted to vote for
prior to reading the list of names. Thus, rather than attempting to
read all of the answer possibilities before marking their choice, they
simply looked for the name of the candidate for whom they wished to
vote. The typical procedure would be to start at the top of the list
and read downwards until the preferred candidate was found.
After reading the first candidate's name (Bush) on the left-hand
page, people who wanted to vote for him should have been guided to the
answer column by the number and an arrow. That circle was also the
first (or top) circle in the answer column. It therefore seems quite
unlikely that the voter would by-pass the first circle and mark the
second circle, thereby voting for Buchanan, by mistake.
In contrast, people who wanted to vote for Gore, and had just seen
Bush's name, would be expected to go straight down the page as they
searched for Gore's name. After finding it, people are likely to
have moved their fingers and thumb that held the stick-pin punching
device to the appropriate punching location. It is likely that
in the process of doing this some people (particularly those who
are right-handed) did not see the number and arrow pointing to the
appropriate answer circle because it was obscured by their hand.
They may have also concluded that the second hole in the column was
the correct one to punch, simply because Gore was the second candidate
on the page. Thus, both the locational feature (being second) and
mechanics of answering seem likely to have worked together in a way
that led some people to inadvertently punch the second hole (Buchanan
choice) rather than the third hole (Gore choice).
The possibility that some circles in the column of possible answers
applied to Buchanan (on the next page) is unlikely to have occurred to
some respondents. It is most unusual for any ballot or questionnaire
to list choices to the first page to the right of the names, while
choices to the second page are listed to the left of the names, and
in addition to have all of them listed in a single column. Therefore,
I would expect that some respondents had no idea that any of the
choices in the answer column applied to the next page instead of
to the candidates on page one. This problem was accentuated by the
presidential preference being listed on the first page of the ballot,
before the respondent had figured out, through experience, exactly how
the ballot worked.
It does seem likely that some respondents who marked the second circle
would have noticed that it was not aligned with the Gore box in the
same way as the first circle was aligned with the Bush box. However,
among those who noticed the different alignment this feature may have
been discounted, because of their having to link together physically
separate components (the actual paper ballot and the booklet listing
candidate names) and the association of the second circle in the
column with the second candidate (Gore) choice.
I would also expect that some ballots were double punched (Gore and
Buchanan) as voters started to punch the second circle, realized they
were making an error, and attempted to recover from it.
Despite the visual and mechanical problems that individually
and jointly increase the likelihood that Gore preference voters
unintentionally and unknowingly voted for Buchanan, the nature of the
problem is such that it would not affect most voters. Most people are
able to "figure-out" how to answer questions when they are presented
in a visually inappropriate way, as was done in this situation.
However, I am also confident that some Gore-preference voters would
have made the error described above. At the same time, and for the
reasons described above, Bush-preference voters were not likely to
make the same mistake.
1Don A. Dillman is the Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of
Government and Public Policy at Washington State University in
Pullman, Washington. The opinions expressed here are his own and
should not be attributed to his employer, Washington State University,
or to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, for which
he now serves as Vice-President and President-Elect. Background on
the theory and research that lead to the interpretations reported
here are published in Chapter 3 of Dillman, Don A. 2000 Mail and
Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, New York: John Wiley;
and Jenkins, Cleo R. and Don A. Dillman 1997 "Towards a Theory of
Self-Administered Questionnaire Design," Chapter 7 of Lyberg, Lars, et
al., Survey Measurement and Process Quality, (pp.165-196,) New York:
Don A. Dillman, Social and Economic Sciences Research Center
and Departments of Sociology and Rural Sociology
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-4014
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