“Double Bubble Trouble”: Massive voter disenfranchisement in California — and Washington?

The LA Registrar of Voters says it may not be possible to determine voter intent! Please sign Courage Campaign’s “Count every vote” petition asking for a full recount! 25,000 signatures so far; latest update and some discussion about “intent” on Courage Campaign’s page here. PeteTV has a video and transcript at So this is what it feels like to be disenfranchised. Please help spread the word!Elsewhere: Brad Friedman has a detailed update on the Washington State Republican caucuses; they’ve once again been called for McCain with 96% reporting — the state party chair says they may not be able to count all 100%. TPM reports that the Huckabee campaign is threatening legal action. There were major problems in Louisiana; the New Mexico Democratic recount is proceeding with 2,800 provisional ballots qualified so far; John Gideon’s Daily Voting News has links.More details and updates in What democracy looks like in the US, February, 2008.


There are reports that hundreds of thousands of non-partisan, independent, and “decline to state” voters in Los Angeles County votes may not be counted. Julia Rosen of Courage Campaign’s Count Every Vote in Los Angeles has a great initial summary and comments, and has been posting updates in a Calitics thread. Double Bubble Trouble on Brad Friedman’s voting rights blog is also following the story.

Dean Logan, the LA County Registrar of Voters has 28 days to decide whether or not to certify the vote; I’ve heard him described as a fair and reasonable guy, and at the hearing yesterday he sounded amenable to recounting the votes (although didn’t make any commitments) so hopefully, he’ll do the right thing. LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, the Board of Supervisors, and Secretary of State Debra Bowen are all involved.

On top of that, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Contra Costa counties, possibly elsewhere, ran out of Spanish and English ballots. These may well have affected the results in California — perhaps determining the next President of the United States by changing the “Super Tuesday” narrative, or at the very least shifting a few delegates, one way or another.


Update at 3:15 p.m.: Julia Rosen reports in David Dayen’s thread on Calitics

We have confirmed this with the Registrar. The Secretary of State is engaged on this issue, as is the LA City Attorney. The Board of Supes is meeting as we speak about this. Plus Council members like Eric Garcetti have been all over this….

In addition, we confirmed that this was a problem with the ROV over the weekend, then moved to alert the media and the voters. The result was it was one of the main story lines yesterday and it seems to continue to draw significant media attention as elected officials help to press the issue….

The Registrar has 28 days to certify the vote. We are hopeful that this will not necessitate legal action and they will do the right thing.

And as I remarked in one of the threads, let us give thanks to Debra Bowen for her principled decision to insist on a paper trail and decertify the machines that couldn’t provide them; and to all the voting rights activists who have worked so hard for many years on this issue.

Update at 8 a.m.:

All About Race’s California Disgrace has the best resource list for the LA “Double Bubble Trouble”. The Unapologetic Mexican’s Many Votes Not Counted in Califas highlights that this may be only the tip of broader disenfranchisement issues: there are many reports across the state of people being provisional rather than non-partisan or Democratic ballots.

There are now discussions of this in various places; in addition to Caltics, Crooks and Liars, Courage Campaign, Brad’s Blog, Democratic Underground, it’s also on the Facebook Barack Obama discussion board and One Million Strong for Barack groups. There’s even something on the tribe.net US Politics tribe and the Craigslist politics forum, although right now they’re mostly me talking to myself. I submitted it to Slashdot; hopefully others will do the same.If anybody knows other places this is being discussed, please put links in the comments — thanks!

No matter who you support, it’s important to call attention to this. Free and fair elections are the bulwark of a democratic society. Following the massive irregularities in the “chain of custody” in New Hampshire, with voter disenfranchisement at a scale that can tip a state as large as California, who can have confidence in the result of this fall’s election unless things start to change now?

So please, get involved: help spread the word!

Update at 7:30 p.m., February 7: The Washington State primary (not caucus) ballot suffers from a similar “double bubble” design defect: an unnecessary extra bubble or box to check to get your vote counted. In North Central Washington, 8-21% of the early mail-in ballots will not be conted; in rural Kitsap County, it’s 33%; in Pierce County (Tacoma) it’s only 2%. Pierce County’s behavior is exemplary: they’re following up with voters who didn’t check the box. Other counties are leaving it up to the voters. Instructions here if you’ve already voted by mail in Washington state. Thanks to Mikal for the tip!

Update at 6:30 p.m., February 8: Possible issues with Santa Clara mail-in voters as well? And it seems like there’s a double-standard where some voters get second chances, and others might not. More in a comment …

The LA Registrar of Voters has not yet agreed to conduct a hand recount; this means 94,000 “decline to state” (DTS) votes may not be counted. Please sign Courage Campaign’s petition asking for a full recount! All About Race’s California Disgrace has more. Los Angeles County DTS voters, please hold on to your voting stub until further notice — other important information here.

Update on March 4: democracy largely (albeit imperfectly) prevailed in the LA County mess; 47,153 “double bubble” votes were counted in Los Angeles County.