Bill Would Ensure Voters Understand Impact Of Ballot Overvote Warning

A Maricopa County early mail-in voter took picture of their ballot before Sharpiegate became known. Only after the issue made the news did they review the photo and notice that the bleed through of ink was obvious and wide-spread.

In keeping with her post-Election Day promise, Sen. Kelly Townsend has introduced a bill to amend one of the state’s current election laws in order to ensure voters understand a common voting system warning.

On Thursday, the Senate’s Committee on Government will consider SB1025 which seeks to amend Arizona Revised Statute 16-580 so voters make an informed decision on whether to ignore a warning that they have overvoted part of their ballot. The amendment only applies to in-person voting.

An overvote occurs when a in-person voting system -sometimes referred to as an electronic ballot box- “reads” or detects more than the allowed amount of votes for a particular contest or other measure. For instance, a voter can only cast a vote for one candidate in the presidential race, so if more than one vote is detected then an overvote warning is given to the voter.

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Several in-person voters in Maricopa County provided affidavits or even testified in court that they pushed an override button in response to an override warning, believing in error that it would trigger a manual review of their ballot. Instead, the override caused all votes in the overvoted section to be ignored, even if the machine simply read a stray ink mark.

Townsend’s bill adds language to ARS §16-580 to require election officials to advise a voter that overriding an overvote or other irregularity warning results in no vote being counted in that contest. This will ensure the voter has an opportunity to request a new ballot before they complete the election process.