Counting the Votes

  • Martha E. Kropf
Part of the Elections, Voting, Technology book series (EVT)


There are a number of instances where election scholars might simply say: “You just can’t make this stuff up.” Indeed, consider this real newspaper story about counting votes in a local election reported by Zachary K. Johnson in The Stockton (CA) Record:

At the election office on Wednesday, two observers and two election workers tried to decipher the scrawl on one pink envelope. The numbers in the address were unclear; so were the letters in the voter’s name. Best guesses led them through a search of the voter rolls before his signature came up on a computer screen.

“That’s Justin,” said staffer Jeff Dale, matching it up to the signature on the envelope. After a few more steps, including checking to see if it was the only time the person voted, the envelope landed in the box for envelopes to be opened and counted.

“He went to the correct (polling) place. He didn’t return his absentee (ballot). We’re good to go,” elections supervisor Liz Orosco said before the group moved on to the next pink envelope.1


Local Election Polling Place Voter Registration Vote Machine Paper Ballot 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 2.
    It should be noted, however, that the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Roy Saltman was one of the first to articulate rampant potential problems with punch-card balloting. See (among other publications), Saltman, Roy G. 2006. The History and Politics of Voting Technology: In Quest of Integrity and Public Confidence. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    Kimball, David C., Martha Kropf, and Lindsay Battles. 2006. “Helping America Vote? Election Administration, Partisanship, and Provisional Voting in the 2004 Election.” Election Law Journal 5(4): 447–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Kropf, Martha, Timothy Vercellotti, and David C. Kimball. 2013. “Representative Bureaucracy and Partisanship: The Implementation of Election Law.” Public Administration Review 73(2): 242–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 13.
    Frisina, Laurin, Michael C. Herron, James Honaker, and Jeffrey B. Lewis. 2008. “Ballot Formats, Touchscreens, and Undervotes: A Study of the 2006 Midterm Elections in Florida.” Election Law Journal 7(1): 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 14.
    See Knack, Stephen and Martha Kropf. 2003. “Voided Ballots in the 1996 Presidential Election: A County Level Analysis.” Journal of Politics 65(3): 881–897.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    See Miller, Michael G. 2013. “Do Audible Alerts Reduce Undervotes? Evidence from Illinois.” Election Law Journal 12(2): 162–178. There are two ways to think about privacy. The audible beep compromises privacy because others around the voter will know that he or she failed to mark an office or overvoted. Another privacy concern is that if others could see how a person voted, they could coerce a person to vote a certain way. The other privacy concern is more relevant here: that the voter might feel uncomfortable if others judged him or her as having made a voting mistake or as not being knowledgeable to vote in all the contests on the ballot.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    See Rubin, Aviel D. 2006. Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting. New York: Morgan Road Books.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Herrnson, Paul S., Richard G. Niemi, Michael J. Hanmer, Benjamin D. Bederson, Frederick G. Conrad, and Michael W. Traugott. 2008. Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Palazzolo, Daniel, Vincent G. Moscardelli, Meredith Patrick, and Doug Rubin. 2008. “Election Reform After HAVA: Voter Verification in Congress and the States.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 38(3): 515–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 41.
    Kimball, David C. and Martha Kropf. 2008. “Voting Technology, Ballot Measures and Residual Votes.” American Politics Research 36(4): 479–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martha E. Kropf
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

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