Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Simmering shit soup

Journalists once tried to explain what was explicable. Now, many of them prefer to keep the shit soup simmering. The next day's story is so much easier to write if it's a slight variation on today's.

For instance, if there was a close election and a question arose about how to interpret ballots with similar marks, the AP would show us those marks in their contexts. Instead, the AP lets the completely explicable legitimacy of the process look questionable:

But the members split on another type of challenge, where an X appeared atop or beneath a filled oval. Some were ruled clear votes, others were set aside.

''We're not going to be entirely consistent. Part of it is going to be how the ballot strikes us,'' Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, a board member, said to no one in particular. ''This isn't an exact science.''

Here are ballot markings from two different ballots:

Pretty easy, huh? They both have to count the same way. Wouldn't that be a common standard for intent of the voter? Yeah, but only if you're as simple-minded as the Supreme Court was in Bush v. Gore.

The top mark in context looks like this:

Further, every other vote on the ballot is a filled oval without the X. For example, here's the vote for President:

The voter obviously intended to cross out the Franken vote and vote for Norm Coleman. Sure, he or she should have taken another ballot, but the intent is clear, and this is a legitimate vote.

So the second mark above is a cross-out and doesn't count for Franken? Instead, it's an undervote since all the other ovals are empty? No, look at its context. What does this second voter use to signify intent? Here's the second voter's Presidential vote:

This voter marked several other races with both Xes and filled-in ovals. This is an expression of valid intent.

Don't take my word for it. Go look at these scans:
See, now that wasn't so hard.

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