Breaking: Repeal Signatures Getting Second Look

A press release from the City Auditor's office reveals that the Secretary of State and County Elections have uncovered some technical issues with the verification process for the Voter-Owned Elections repeal petition.

Multnomah County, City of Portland and State of Oregon elections officials have discovered a technological error in the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration (OCVR) system and a procedural error that may have an impact on the certified results of the ballot measure initiative petition to repeal the City's public campaign finance program.

As soon as officials became aware of the potential errors, the parties undertook cooperative efforts to rectify the errors and carefully review the petition to ensure that every valid signature is counted.

Multnomah County has requested state assistance in ensuring that all election laws and procedures are followed. Multnomah County is conducting a thorough review of all the information related to this issue and will send the City of Portland a new official certification of the results as soon as this review process is completed. Once the review is complete and Multnomah County’s findings are presented to the City of Portland, City officials will release those findings.

It is important to note that the outcome could go either way. Some signatures may be newly validated while others may be newly invalidated.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Can we blame Diebold for this one? Does this mean Kerry won Ohio? Re-elect Al Gore?

    Mistakes can't be made by election officials without a vast right-wing conspiracy, right? Anybody up for a little march up Broadway tomorrow afternoon? Let's slow down the evil automobile commuters and get pepper-sprayed. We can sue the City: it'll be cool.

    There is an interesting nuance above: "technical" is different than "technological". Technical could mean somebody screwed up the math. Technological suggests a non-human cause.

    How about a Blue Ribbon panel to investigate petition counting bias in Multnomah County?

    If it turns out to be human error (rather than computer error), we must remove human participation from future vote counts. Non-partisan computers are more reliable than humans. Humans can't be trusted with such a vital component of our democratic process. Not after this outrage.

  • Qwendolyn (unverified)

    Don't Feed the Troll

  • hmmmmm (unverified)

    Wow. Turns out that tin hats don't protect against technological errors in the signature validation process.

    On a brighter note, maybe this will shed some light on the semi-mystical process of approving initiatives for the ballot. Everyone here seems to have a vastly different idea of how it's all done. It seems even Multnomah County might not be too sure.

    For starters, what weight is given to a petition signature? Supporters of Westlund who are members of a political party can't vote in their party's primary if they want their signature to count toward getting an independant on the ballot. If a petition signature has the same weight (or close to it) as a vote, is a statistical analysis really the way to go about counting them?

    And if it is, how much time should be spent on each signature to determine if it really is a registered voter? Have you ever tried reading the names of other people who've signed when you see a petitioner? Would you really want the job of trying to decipher the kind of handwriting that results when people hurriedly jot down their name before jumping on a max?

    Not to mention the possiblity of technological errors. The deeper you look into this process, the more questions there are. At least now we might get some answers.

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    bruce, computers may be more reliable--but humans are more accurate. A computer will count a statutorially valid vote wrong, the same way every time.

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    No matter which way this goes, officials are not taking a second look because of "sabotage" - or any other charge of criminal activity or fraud. And if big money narrowly buys their way onto the ballot, I say bring on the debate - a victory at the polls will be sweeter anyway.

  • LT (unverified)

    A computer will count a statutorially valid vote wrong, the same way every time.

    Having once been a recount observer, I have this question: Can a machine pick up that a voter has marked a candidate AND written someone in, the way a human can? That's double voting, and last time I heard, double votes invalidate that ballot line.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    It's also worth noting the Press Release doesn't acknowledge who discovered the error.

    It's a procedural error that followed a technological error, that all three parties happened upon simultaneously. We can't tell you what the error is, because we don't really know if it's going to change the outcome. But if it does, you can trust us to tell you all about it.

    Which is very convenient if you were the party that committed the error, or the second party that overlooked the error. If everybody discovered the error at PRECISELY THE SAME TIME, then it was never really an error, right? If they started to fix it the moment it was discovered, then nobody tried to overlook it. Right?

    What did the City Auditor know, and when did he know it. VoterGate 2006. Where's the Big O's Bernstein when you need 'em?

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    One thing everyone has to remember is that the counties are now using a new state-wide system for voter registration. Mult Co did some testing of it. But that doesn't mean everything is going to work perfectly. You'll find errors along the way and get them corrected.

    They'll fix whatever is wrong and then look at the petitions again to see if there was any affect.

    You'd better believe that the county is being as careful as possible with this, as they know that they're likely to be sued if they don't. No one spends that much money on a petition effort without having a plan for legal action, if needed.

  • Ramon (unverified)

    There is a simple answer to all this that best protects every voter's rights.

    Verify every signature - until there are either enough good ones to satisfy the actual requirement; or not. This is nothing new. It's the way it is done in many states.

    But not in Oregon. Why not? Is it too expensive? No, the database is good enough for this task, even if it's prone to error in sampling.

    The fact is, our hyper-political elections officials want sampling because they enjoy the power of manipulating the outcome. When they can get away with it, they adjust the sample and prevent popular measures (which they oppose) from going before the people. Even when a sufficient number of actual "good" signatures have been collected and submitted.

    The petition samples are termed "random" but they are not. For one, they use the historical records of particular circulators to filter. And they have elaborate formulae to over-extrapolate "errors" (whose author, in U.S. Court, was unable to justify). See the case Sajo v. Bradbury - this is the way it is done and our officials are spending our tax dollars on lawyers in court, right now, defending these procedures as legit.

    Progressives believe in Good Government above all. But Progressives also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This opportunity for mischevious manipulation should not be entrusted to those who would be tempted to abuse it.

    Cut to the chase. End petition sampling. Allow EVERY signature to be counted.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    All were asking is that they simply count every vote!

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    what's the problem with sampling? I don't get it. It's an entirely valid way to approach the counting process scientifically.

    Ramon, once again I urge you to provide information on how sampling "manipulates" the outcome. So far you've failed to do so. Simply repeating "Sajo v Bradbury" doesn't cut it.

    LT--the answer would be yes and no. If the machine reader uses optical scan technology (bubbles you fill in, essentially), then it WOULD pick up a double vote like that, IF the 'write-in' category had its bubble filled in. Unfortunately, people who do write-ins have a tendency not to fill in that bubble.

    Here's an example of a valid vote that machines will reject, "reliably," every time: voter selects Candidate A, then crosses it out and writes NO next to it, filling in the bubble next to Candidate B and writing THIS ONE next to that. In most jurisdictions, this would be a valid vote for Candidate B. However, the machine would almost surely reject it as an overvote.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    Six million bucks for a data merge, and we're still f-ing it up? Can we pin this on Diane Linn? Or Jason Williams?

    Luckily, this has no actual consequen-- er, actually, liquor stores near the League of Women Voters (who knew the bluehairs could drink so much?) and Eric Sten's office have seen dramatic increases in purchases. As have those near Gard and Gerber.

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)

    Does anyone else find it ironic that those who most fervently support voter-owned elections are the most fearful of letting the voters decide if they want it?

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    Fearful isn't the word. "wondering why the time and expense are necessary" would be more apt. The only data I've seen indicate the repeal wouldn't pass, so I'm not sure why one would fear it.

    Perhaps the fear you're referring to is the fear that a select group of large business interests are acting out of their OWN fears, and will spend whatever is necessary to preserve their special access.

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    Does anyone else find it ironic that those who most fervently support voter-owned elections are the most fearful of letting the voters decide if they want it?

    Good one, Bill. I support VOE, I guess that's why Im so "fearful" that I wrote above:

    And if big money narrowly buys their way onto the ballot, I say bring on the debate - a victory at the polls will be sweeter anyway.

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    No Bill, it's not a bit ironic and I'm pretty sure that you understand why.

    The soundbite that will be used against VOE is simple and deceptive: "Are we gonna let those sleazy politicians spen our money to get their fat cat butts reelcted?" (You know the argument, some of your guys are actually brain dead enough to try to float it on the informed citizens at Blue Oregon).

    The argument for VOE is that it is wa-a-a-a-a-ay cheaper in the long run to get the Big Money Kids out of the election funding bidness, because they almost always expect a quid pro quo for their donations, and whatever breaks they get have to be paid for by the rest of the taxpayers. Then you have to explain how this all works.

    Any group that is facing a simple, great sounding, but fundamentally dishonest argument, would prefer not to have to deal with it.

    Don't worry, though, I'm sure that when the first Gard and Gerber cowpie hits the rock, there will be hard eyed border collies armed with the facts, doing their best to drive off the coyotes, and protect the herd.

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    The expensive nature of checking every signature on the petitions has nothing to do with the databases-- it has to do with the number of hours you have to pay people to check those signatures.

    It would mean either overtime for the people already working there, or the need to hire and train additional people.

    As far as the questions about ballot with things written on them...

    Ballots with extra items written on them are checked by hand. If it can be seen how the voter intended to be voted, it's counted (this is done by a group of people from different political backgrounds). If not, it's not counted.

    When working at the elections office, we got a lot of calls from people who had messed up on their ballot. We just explained that they would need to make it obvious how they meant to vote, such as writing "no" next to the one they incorrectly voted on and "yes" next to the one they meant to vote for. Or crossing out the bad vote, and bubbling in and circling the one they'd meant to vote for. We explained how they would be checked by hand. Some were fine with that, others would go ahead and come in for a new ballot.

    While it may mean extra time has to be spent on their ballot, they don't have to wait in line to get a new ballot (which can take a while, since they have to verify no ballot has been returned, print up a label to go on your envelope, and pull the appropriate ballot).

    If you want to know more about how the machines count different kinds of votes, just head on down to your county elections office. They go through the process of explaining this to people quite often.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Jenni: we only have elections twice a year. What are all those elections department employees doing for the remaining 10 months of the year?

    If they don't have time to actually count all the signatures on the petitions, maybe the petition verification process should be outsourced to a third party auditor that will take the time to actually count all valid signatures and list all invalid signatures.

    If we can piss off millions of dollars for taxpayer subsidized city council campaigns, we ought to have enough money to actually count every page of the city mandated petition signatures. Alternately, if they don't plan on counting them all, perhaps they ought to lower the signature threshold?

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    If it was really all about the money, then the state (or a city) would be willing to let the chief petitioners post a bond for a full recount (if it misses, the petitioners pay for the overtime).

    Since the cost of collecting signature is around $250k for a statutory measure and $300k+ for a constitutional measure, any chief petitioner within 5% of qualifying on the sample would be willing to put up the extra $10-20k to cover the cost of a full recount.

    The fact that they won't allow even the chief petitioners to pay them to do a full count has always seemed fishy to me.

    What are they afraid will turn up?

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    There are very few employees between elections. The vast majority are temporary employees and hired only for election season.

    The others have a variety of things they work on.

    A few are trained in passports and also run the passport window there at the Multnomah County elections office.

    Some work on the local/county race C&Es, which come in throughout the year.

    There are voter registration cards that come in all year, and they input them.

    Checking the signatures takes quite a bit of time. It's not like checking signatures on ballots.

    On ballots, the bar code has already been scanned and they're in batches. You bring up a batch and every ballot in your box is there, in order.

    With petition sheets, you have to figure out the voter's info (which if you've ever dealt with handwritten sign in sheets, you know how hard that can be), run a search, find the right voter, etc. When you have a large number of signatures from people who aren't voters (or haven't updated their info after moving, getting married, etc.), it takes a lot longer.

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    Also, I should note that the election doesn't take up only 2 months a year.

    Actually, the busy part of each election starts more than a month before an election and can go weeks after the election.

    Ballots will be going out April 28 for the May 16 election. The voter registration deadline is the day before-- April 27.

    The weeks prior to this are spent inputting the large number of voter registration cards that come in prior to an election. While the number of registered voters may not change, you get a huge number of cards from people who need to change their information.

    There's also all the planning that goes along with an election.

    Not to mention all of the work that surrounds candidates-- filing for office, C&Es, verifying signatures for those who get on the ballot that way, etc.

    For the primary election there's also the need to check the information on everyone who files to run as a precinct committee person, which is more than 1,000 people over the two major parties.

    There's a lot more to the elections office than you may think.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Jenni: I'm willing to acknowledge there is (possibly) 4 months of f/t work for elections officials, but Multnomah County has how many f/t employees assigned to elections year round? What are they doing the remaining 8 months of the year?

    If they don't have time to review every page of every petition, then they ought to give the petitioner the right to pay for a third-party auditor or sufficient temporary staff to count/validate the petitions.

    What's the point of requiring a large number of signatures if you're going to cycle count? Better yet, why not amend the petition forms to make the job easier (add the voters ODL number or DOB)? We could even add technology to the process, by providing signature gatherers with a "swipe your ODL" bar-code reader that would populate a database and record your signature electronically. We don't have to stay in the stone age.

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    There's a lot more than 4 months of f/t work. There's about 3.5-4 months of work during the 2 election cycles in which temporary workers are brought in to help with the heavy load.

    That doesn't include the time when the temp workers are no longer needed because the work load drops enough for the permanent staff to handle (or at least handle with only a handful of temp workers).

    Then there's all the other work that they do, some of which I mentioned above in the previous posting. That's definitely not all they do, as I know several people there also handled other things (like they do with passports). I can't remember for sure what those are, so I won't list them here. But you can call the head of elections and quickly find out.

    Outside of the management and admin positions, there's only about 8 or so employees there the rest of the time. And every single one of them has duties that they do which fill the remainder of the year (such as handling passports, C&Es, etc.).

    Adding information to the signature sheets would be helpful. DOB would be good, as that makes records easy to find. Many people don't know their voter reg number, and they'd have to drag out their DL to get that number.

    You'd still have the problem of having to read their handwriting, though, which can seriously slow things down.

    I haven't heard of the rules allowing for a group to be allowed to pay for all signatures to be counted. If they don't, this could be because it gives organizations with loads of money a significant advantage over small groups that entirely rely on volunteers for their signatures. The goal is to put everyone on an even playing field.

    The bar-code reader would end up having to be something the gathering organizations provided-- I don't see the county or state governments buying and handing these out. Even then, you'd need something that would allow you to personally sign, sort of like what the UPS guys use. I think seeing the person sign the petition, digital or not, is a very important part of the process.

    And of course this once again puts the volunteer powered groups, who often can't afford to spend hundreds of thousands to hire a company that do signature gathering, at a disadvantage.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)


    I don't see the need for a "bond". If the petitioners are willing to pay for a full signature count (not a "recount" given that the first count was merely a sampling), then let them. Win, lose, or draw: the petitioners cover the cost, and would receive no reimbursement.

    If we can afford a million bucks a year for Voter Owned Elections, why not spend some money on making the petition signature gathering process a little more modern. I imagine you could buy a large quantity of tablet (signature gathering) computers for $1,000,000. The city could then rent them to petition drives that were interest in lowering their rejection rates. Heck, might even become a new profit center for the elections department.

    Alternately, if we are going to keep the stone age methodology, it seems like the city/county/state will have to bite the bullet and pay for some overtime. If the signature gatherers have taken the time to gather thousands of signatures, every legal signature deserves to be counted. The current "we'll get back to you" hiatus on the VOE repeal speaks volumes about the dangers of sampling/extrapolating. The Al Gore analogy (count every vote) is perfectly apt: except for the fact that Al Gore only asked for a recount in the three most Democratic counties in Florida.

    Signing a petition is no different than voting, except the petitions represent the grassroots will of the people, which often flies in the face of the establishment. I trust a few Nader supporters remember the manner in which the SoS and other libruls treated them: it cuts both ways.

    Does anybody know what the UPS tablet computers cost?

    If the "even playing field" is inaccurate and time consuming, then it seems that nobody's petitions are being treated with the seriousness they deserve. If any group feels strongly about having ALL their signatures verified, they can raise the funds.

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    I never mentioned the words "bond" or "recount." Those words were use by others.

    I'd imagine those tables like the UPS has cost about $100 each. Of course that doesn't take into consideration the hardware and software that would also be needed-- that's what can get expensive. And they work by scanning a barcode on the package, which then brings up a place for you to sign your name. The needed tablets would have to do more.

    With those tablets, you'd run into the problem with people who have moved and have the wrong information in the system (people are not good about updating their address). If they've moved, and not updated their information, they cannot sign a petition. They have to update their information first (which they can do right there with a voter reg form). Just swiping their ID and then having them sign would lead to a good number of signatures with addresses not matching the voter reg database. And of course that would mean a lot of wasted effort by those collecting signatures.

    A better system would be similar to the way some surveys are done now-- with a laptop. The information could be quickly typed in, and there could be a digital pad where people could sign their names.

    But even if purchased and then rented out, they'd still be out of reach for the smaller organizations, unless you made it all very cheap. But then you'd run the risk of losing money if items were lost or damaged.

    If the county is going to have to do overtime (elections offices are run by the county), then the petition gatherers should have to pay for it. Right now the taxpayers already foot a large amount of money on these efforts-- checking the ballot language, approving the petitions, checking the sample, printing the voters guide (which does not pay for itself), running the election, etc. I don't think people are going to be too happy about how much more expensive this could get unless those gathering the signatures pitch in-- and they don't mean the amount of money spent hiring people to gather signatures, lawyers to write their language, etc.

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    I've been involved in election administration and reform work for about two years.

    The Oregon elections bureau run by John Lindback, and under him the Multnomah County operation run by John Kauffman, are nationally known for their quality and expertise. We are national leaders in many aspects of election administration.

    If you think his staff is 'fat' and wasting time, then head on down to 11th and Morrison and take a look. Seriously. John K. has always been willing to let anyone watch how election administration operates. it's fascinating to watch the signature verification process in action.

    So while someonen may object in principle to using sampling as a way to verify petitions, you're off base if you think the Elections Office is incompetent, inefficient, or controlled by party hacks.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Jenni: I mistakenly attributed the words "bond" and "recount" to you (it was PanchoPdx). My apologies.

    If the petition signer swiped their ODL, they could look at the screen and verify/update their address (as needed): an electronic system could have all the same functionality (and more!), but would be downloadable to a "counting/verification" program that would streamline the elections departments' work. Assuming everybody downloaded their tablets each night, it would be very easy to preclude duplicate signatures ("Sorry, you signed this petition on xx/xx/2006 duplicate signatures are prohibited by law"). I'm not a software programmer, but I'm assuming that many customer relationship management programs could be adapated to this task. Microsoft or Diebold might even develop a beta version for a free trial. It certainly is hard to imagine a system that could be LESS transparent or reliable than the status quo (especially as regards thethe "difficulty" of a comprehensive tally)

    Paul: I don't have any reason to believe they're overstaffed, but it seems reasonable to assume their workload is considerably lighter during 6 to 8 months of the year. Whatever their staffing level, asking that every single petition with a signature be counted/verified seems like a reasonable request. Given this is the citizen's only "direct democracy" access to making/repealing laws, the "efficacy argument" in support of sampling rings hollow. If that were sufficient, we could rely on exit polls instead of ballots.

    The Nader supporters I know believe the elections office and SoS office is motivated by partisanship when something important is at stake (like Oregon's electoral votes). I wouldn't use the term "party hacks" but I'm comforted by the knowledge that lots of election observers are able to participate.

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    Having them change the information there in the system isn't the only thing they need to do-- they'd also need to fill out a voter reg form.

    You need to have a form filled out with a signature. The form can be completely filled out via computer (such as the fill-in PDF), printed, and then signed. How it's filled out (by hand, someone else doing the writing, printer generated, etc.) doesn't matter-- it just matters that the person verifies the information is correct and then signs it.

    The form is important, as they are scanned into the computer and then stored. Sometimes those original copies are needed for various legal reasons.

    Of course, that still means you're likely to end up with a number of "invalid" signatures from people who have moved, updated their DL, but not their voter registration. After handling hundreds of these per day during the 2004 election, I can tell you the number of such people is astounding. People think that when they change their address with the postal service or at the DMV that their registration is changed as well. The only way to really solve this problem is to educate people or change the system. There's not much we can do about the postal service change of address, but maybe with the DL change of address.

    As far as the staff goes...

    Their load isn't all that lighter-- it just means they're not regularly working over-time. In the off season the amount of work they do have can be handled by a smaller staff and temp workers aren't needed. But there is more than enough work to fill a work week for all the employees.

    To check all signatures, they'd need to bring in temp workers which would cost the county money.

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    Bruce, I still haven't heard you explain what your beef is with sampled evaluation. What part of the science of statistical sampling don't you agree with? The research is voluminous and well-tested: a truly random sample of a known universe yields highly accurate results. The known universe--signatures--is a given. The only other consideration is choice of sample, and I've not heard anyone offer evidence that that part of the process is compromised.

    As for exit polls--funny you would mention it that way. The fact is that exit polls are VERY accurate relative to the ballot counts. That's why they are the tool used by elections monitors to determine whether elections in other countries have been run fairly. And it's why the exit polls for President '04 continue to receive scrutiny--something is not right with them.

    Please--some of us went through this exact same nonsense when Dino Rossi challenged the Washington goobernor's results. Jenni has done an outstanding job explaining to you just what goes into a process like this; I suggest you read what she writes carefully. It matches up squarely with everything else I have learned about how good municipalities conduct their elections.

    Finally, as to timing: I believe Multno is compelled to respond to the submission within 15 days, because there is more to the process than just verifying the signatures. Ballot titles need to be created and ajudicated if necessary, printed, etc.

  • LT (unverified)

    As for exit polls--funny you would mention it that way. The fact is that exit polls are VERY accurate relative to the ballot counts. That's why they are the tool used by elections monitors to determine whether elections in other countries have been run fairly. And it's why the exit polls for President '04 continue to receive scrutiny--something is not right with them.

    Let me get this straight about your faith in exit polls.

    I have faith in the system used in this state for recounts. 3 of my friends have been involved in recounts--in 2 cases, the friend lost the close recount one year and won election to the same office the next time around.

    Are you saying that your faith in exit polls is such that in the case of all 3 of my friends (I think the recount years were 1980, 1988, 1992) the exit polls for those years are "very accurate " relative to the ballot count? That in each case there was no discrepancy between the exit poll and the final recount result? Or that if there is a discrepency we shouldn't believe the recount results because exit polls are always more accurate?

    As far as Ohio 2004, I am sure there were many irregularties like people having to wait in line for hours, too few voting machines in some precincts, questions about the way ballots / voting technology was treated, suspicious people trying to dissuade voters in Democratic pcts (wasn't there a court ruling about "voter challenges at polls"?).

    However, I reject the notion that the number one factor in accuracy of those results is exit polls: that if in a particular pct. the wait time in line was no more than 30 minutes, there was independent scrutiny of ballot count, there were no suspicious people doing ballot challenges at that polling place, then the ballot count had better line up with an exit poll done at that pct. because after all, exit polls are the most accurate measure.

    I remember exit polls at the local school where we voted before vote by mail. Exit polls are not random samples--people must agree to answer the questions. Absentee ballots and early voting are counted with the same weight as regular ballots, but not subject to exit polling.

    So are you suggesting that exit polls are infallible? Some on this blog and elsewhere have tried to do that. I just don't see how exit polls are infallible, given that both the pollsters and voters are human beings. But then I'm not a big fan of polls anyway--they don't always predict accurately, and sometimes give false impressions. If you want evidence of that, look no further than the Monday Oregonian the day before the 1992 primary. Poll results splashed across the front page. ALL WERE WRONG, Oregonian ended up apologizing and changed polling firms.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    TJ: I understand sampling very well. Given the razor thin extrapolated shortfall on the VOE petition, a full count of every valid signature is the only method that will achieve certainty of results.

    I also understand that Democrats continue to spin conspiracy theories about the primacy of exit polls because they PREFERRED THE PROJECTED WINNER vs. the winner of the actual ballot counts. It's kind of like crying in your beer over the Electoral College: the Republicans didn't come up with the idea to screw Blue states. If you don't like it, then start a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution. Don't talk to me about Al Gore winning the popular vote: that's not how we elect our Presidents.

    As stated in my first paragraph, a sampling is great if the margin of error does not exceed the margin of victory. When it does, there is only one counting method that can achieve certainty of results.

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    Bruce--600 signatures is not razor thin--it's 2% less than they needed. Electoral recounts don't typically happen unless the margin is less than 1%, and often is .5% or lower. And it's certainly larger than the error margin, which would be tiny indeed given a large 20% sample.

    Your rant about electoral votes and Al Gore is entirely irrelevant; I never said anything about popular votes or even the 2000 election. It is not a conspiracy theory to say that exit polls are the standard by which fair elections are judged worldwide, and that they are highly accurate in determining election results--partially because they self-adjust as more factual information comes in.

    As I stated in response to your first paragraph, the margin of "defeat" is much larger than the margin of error from a 20% sample.

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    LT--my reference was to national exit polls for the executive. I never even approached saying they were infallible; I said they were highly accurate determinants of actual results.

    Using polls as predictors is never entirely wise; especially the further from the polled event you are if it's a horserace poll. But they are valuable as both point-in-time and trend indicators.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)


    Unless you're an elections department employee, the 624 signature projected margin is based on technological and procedural errors. Like any scientific sampling, it requires the implementation of a reliable protocol to identify the sampling pool, and some basic math and statistics training.

    That said, I believe the 624 signature "projected shortfall" should be divided by the 40,988 signatures they submitted, which results in a 1.52% margin of defeat.

    As stated previously, I believe the petitioners are entitled to a full count (not a "recount" as you suggested) in order to remove the cloud of impropriety from the "technological and procedural errors" they have already admitted. The word "recount" implies they have already been counted once. They have not been counted, merely sampled.

    The Orwellian Press Release stated:

    Multnomah County has requested state assistance in ensuring that all election laws and procedures are followed. Multnomah County is conducting a thorough review of all the information related to this issue and will send the City of Portland a new official certification of the results as soon as this review process is completed. Once the review is complete and Multnomah County’s findings are presented to the City of Portland, City officials will release those findings.

    Well that is clear as mud, don't you think?

    Quoting the Oregonian's Anna Griffin:

    But in the First Things First count, the state system did not report some signers as registered voters, even though they were.

    First Things First filed 40,988 signatures. Yet in two random samples totaling 8,219, the county ruled 30 percent as invalid. That included 1,591 signatures that did not belong to registered voters.

    Using a complicated state formula, the county estimated that First Things First turned in roughly 26,067 valid signatures -- 624 short. There's no telling whether a review of the random sample will result in enough additions for the repeal to qualify.

    Sampling is subject to a calculated margin of error: neither you nor the county can calculate that margin of error so long as their technological and procedural errors remain unknown. I would suggest the "complicated state formula" would not be so complicated if they merely created a spreadsheet of valid signatures, and invalid ones, then totaled the two columns. Now that wasn't hard, was it?

  • paul (unverified)


    There is a fundamental difference between a petition to get on the ballot and the final vote.

    Citizen's "make" laws and choose their leaderes when they vote, not when they sign a petition to get on the ballot.

    I suspect the reason that the elections officials have had to rely on sampling procedures is because of the number of petitions that are being submitted in Oregon. As Jenni notes in detail, validating every one of 20,000+ signatures is a tremendous burden.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Why are so many B/O regulars (and the City Council) afraid of letting the public have an opportunity to vote on Voter Owned Elections? It reminds me of Pinochet's Chile, circa 1985: El Presidente de la Republica de Chile, Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet Ugarte is telling anybody that will listen that he can win a plebiscite hands down, but the Generalissimo thinks it would be better to hold off for another couple of years, lest the unpleasant memories of 1973, or the forces of chaos, impact the outcome. I can understand why a third world dictator wouldn't want to stand for election 15 years into his armed rule. I don't understand why the supporters of VOE are similarly fearful. You don't think the voters are stupid, do you?

    Paul: the fundamental difference between A), the petition and the B) the final vote is that you must achieve A to gain entitlement to B. That, and the fact the City has established a relatively high burden of 9% of registered city voters (a larger number than vote in many local judicial races in a off election year).

    Invalidating petitions with a flawed sampling system might be easier, or it might wind up being much more labor intensive. We'll assume the latter if the "revalidation" results require several days more of waiting, in which case a court challenge seems likely. Factor in the extra public relations and legal costs, and a full review of the "First things First" petition might be cheaper on an all inclusive basis.

    Sampling is unquestionably less democratic than a full review. This is especially true when they have admitted to undefined and ethereal "technological and procedural errors". Even more troubling, if the margin of defeat is less than 2%, it probably exceeds the margin of error on a 20% sampling.

    Oddly enough, when it was Gregoire v. Rossi or Gore v. Bush I don't recall any Democrats arguing that expediency was more important than accuracy. To the contrary: (in a Tenessee drawl, "we're simply asking they take the time to count every vote). Count until you win seemed to be the legal strategy employed by Al Gore's crack legal team: maybe First things First could pick up Al's old playbook.

    Historically, the right to petition (thereby bypassing the legislature with a ballot initiative) was endorsed by populists, conservatives, and progressives alike. How many marijuana related initiatives have we voted on in the past 20 years? And there's another decriminalization ballot measure slated for November! Maybe this whole city is stoned?

  • (Show?)

    I stopped reading WBA2's comment around the Pinochet comparison, but a strawman keeps coming up: "VOE reformers are just afraid to face this repeal."

    Earlier in the post, I wrote:

    From Bill: Does anyone else find it ironic that those who most fervently support voter-owned elections are the most fearful of letting the voters decide if they want it? Good one, Bill. I support VOE, I guess that's why Im so "fearful" that I wrote above: And if big money narrowly buys their way onto the ballot, I say bring on the debate - a victory at the polls will be sweeter anyway.

    Hey if PGE, Qwest and the FTF committee got the repeal on, great. Game on. If anyone is afraid here, it's the big money folks who are afraid to give this system a shot. Methinks they fear it will work.

  • (Show?)

    Bruce, again you misapprehend. It's incorrect to say the margin is based on technological and procedural errors. There are errors in the voter db; as yet it is unknown whether those errors affected the outcome. For example, let's say the voter db was missing 1000 valid registrations. For it to have any impact, some of those missing registrations have to ALSO be people who signed the petition.

    I did not call this process a "recount," I was referring to electoral recount standards, in which a recount is generally not allowed unless the result margin is 1% or lower. It makes no sense to compare the qualification deficit (624) to the total number of signatures submitted; FtF could have submitted 40 million instead of 40 thousand, and the number needed would not have changed. To get the margin of defeat, you would compare the valid signatures to the signature threshhold. The margin of defeat is thus 2.34%--well above the threshhold considered "close" by common electoral standards.

    The sampling protocol is unaffected by the voter db errors, as far as it appears. Choosing a set of signatures to review has nothing to do with which ones are in the voter db--if they appear, they are randomly distributed throughout the full set of signatures.

    You have manufactured a "cloud of impropriety" all by yourself. No evidence has been offered--by you or anyone--to suggest impropriety by Multnomah County or the Sec of State in implementing the voter db. So quit casting aspersions unless you have something besides speculation to work from.

    I agree sampling is subject to a calculated margin of error. The two factors required are the size of the universe (in this case 40K), and the size of the sample (8K). Thus the sample proportion is 20%. Working loosely from survey error margins, where a mere 1,000 responses stands in for the 150 million or so registered voters in the US and yields about a 3% MoE with .05 confidence, it should be clear that the MoE on a 20% sample is much, much less than 3%. The errors of validity have NOTHING to do with the error margin.

    It is entirely possible that the fix to the voter db will result in a WORSE outcome for FtF. How? If any of the signatures originally "missing" from the db turn up as valid voters--but are themselves duplicated in the sample--then they will not only NOT count as valid signatures, but will penalize the total as duplicates.

    It is the "complicated formula" that allows a sampled set of signatures to stand in for a review of the entire universe of signatures, so I don't get your complaint there, either.

  • (Show?)

    Well, it's moot now...

    The City of Portland announced today that the campaign to repeal the City's public campaign finance program has submitted 25,855 valid signatures, 836 less than the 26,691 required to qualify for the ballot.

    The technological error mistakenly excluded 49 registered voters from the valid signature count, while the procedural error mistakenly included over 180 petition sheets that contained circulator errors. The technological issue in the Centralized Voter Registration System has been resolved and city and county procedures have been reviewed to avoid future errors of this nature.
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