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Are Americans Confident Their Ballots Will Be Counted?

- September 18, 2008

This article in today’s Washington Post — headlined “High Turnout, New Procedures May Mean an Election Day Mess” — reminded me of a just-published study by Michael Alvarez, Thad Hall, and Morgan Llewellyn. The title of this post is the title of their article.

In 2005 and 2006 surveys, they asked respondents, “How confident are you that your ballot in the November of 2004 presidential contest between George Bush and John Kerry was counted as you intended?” Below is the percentage of whites and blacks who said “very confident.”

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There is obviously a large racial gap. Blacks are much less confident than whites.

Another noteworthy finding: among whites, Republicans are about 25 points more likely than Democrats to be “very confident,” controlling for other factors.

A third finding: those who vote in-person with a paper ballot are more confident than those voting by an other means (absentee, electronic machines, level, punch cards, etc.).

Find the article here. As for the Washington Post piece, perhaps the most important message is this one:

bq. In Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco, registrar Stephen Weir said he too learned from the primary. A fold in the absentee ballots forced him to spend nearly two weeks ironing, by hand, about 16,000 ballots to make them flat enough to feed into vote-counting machines.

bq. “There were two lessons learned,” he said. “Dump the fold. And the silk setting worked great.”