Primary ballot change complicates voting
A new procedure is causing concern that voters will be confused and that more ballots will be invalidated.
The Sept. 20 primary election will have a different ballot format that could confuse voters. Kevin Cronin, the new chief of the state Office of Elections, is confident the new arrangement under a new voting contractor will result in better balloting. As optimistic as Cronin is, election officials and precinct workers should make certain that voters understand how to fill out the unfamiliar ballot so their votes will count.
In previous primaries, voters selected a ballot color-coded for a party's candidates in partisan races. The new ballots will have voters checking one of six political parties, but all candidates' names will be listed on the same ballot.
This could cause confusion if voters think they can choose candidates from parties other than the one they checked. Voters also might mistakenly think they have to be registered party members. Others might consider themselves independent, check that and have their ballots rejected.
Cronin's office says instructions will be clear and voters at polling places will have a chance to redo their ballots if filled out incorrectly. However, that won't be possible when an absentee ballot is cast. Since absentee voting has grown in popularity - more than a third of total votes in the 2006 primary were by absentee ballots - the number of invalid ballots could increase.
The elections office has been troubled by controversy over the awarding of a contract for voting operations and confusion involving candidate filings last month. Cronin's selection of Hart InterCivic's $43-million bid has been ruled unreasonable by a state administrative officer and is now under appeal.
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