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November 5, 2012

8 questions about the presidential election

(Continued)

Q: How do people who vote by mail or absentee ballot know their votes were counted?

A: Local registrars and elections officials say absentee ballots that are received on time are counted as long as they are correctly filled out. The notion that they are counted only if an election is close is "an old wives' tale," said the auditor who oversees voting in Iowa's Polk County, Jamie Fitzgerald, D. "They all count." The best way to ensure that your vote is counted, officials say, is for the signature on the ballot to match the one in the voter-registration record. But the spectacle of the 2000 recount and the subsequent rise of social media and its ability to spread rumors have fostered mistrust and eroded public confidence in the elections system. A national survey by the Voting Technology Project, a joint venture of the Massachusetts and California institutes of technology, found just 57 percent of those who voted by mail in were "very confident" that their ballots were counted. Seventy-four percent of Election Day voters expressed the same level of confidence. Many voters end up with uncounted ballots by failing to fill out all parts with appropriate signatures and addresses. States use varying degrees of diligence in contacting voters with flawed ballots. "Ours have three red X's," Fitzgerald said of the places on the ballot that must be filled out.

Q: Will damage from Hurricane Sandy have an impact on the election?

A: The storm is not likely to cause a shift in the electoral college totals. New Jersey and New York and Connecticut, the three states hit hardest by the storm, are solidly in Obama's column. But lingering damage could trim Obama's popular vote in those states. Hundreds of thousands remain without power, and gasoline is in short supply. Polling places could remain dark or inaccessible. New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, R, said last week that the state would deploy military trucks to serve as makeshift polling places and extend the deadline for requesting mail-in ballots. The silver lining for Obama is that the storm froze Romney in place for a couple of days at a time when he had momentum swinging his way. Romney was in the background while Obama commanded enormous attention as a commander in chief leading recovery efforts — and won high approval ratings for his performance.

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