Follow those directions

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Although voter turnout for the Nov. 8 municipal elections was low, we are happy those voters who marked ballots did so.

We would be much happier if some of those voters had marked ballots properly. Why care about ballots being marked properly? Properly marked ballots make for smoother elections and the canvassing of ballots that comes after an election.

Last week’s recount in the Washington City Council race made it painfully clear some voters can’t — or won’t — follow easy directions on how to mark a ballot. Voters who don’t follow directions make for unsmooth elections.

One improperly marked ballot resulted in the three-member Beaufort County Board of Elections counting the ballots from one polling place by the hand-eye method. That means the board members visually inspected each ballot. That took time, making the recount process even longer. Counting those ballots by the hand-eye method resulted in the recount taking three and a half hours.

Going into the recount, Richard Brooks had a three-vote lead over incumbent Gil Davis. At the end of the recount, Brooks has picked up one vote.

There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to inspect each ballot. When a few votes separate an apparently successful candidate from an unsuccessful candidate, a recount makes sense and is the fair and right thing to do. Our problem is with those voters who fail to follow the instructions — clearly visible on each ballot — on how to mark a ballot. Improperly marked ballots throw monkey wrenches into the election machinery, sometimes delaying the final results.

With improperly marked ballots, the elections board has to consider voter intent. Sometimes that intent is clear. There are times when that intent is not clear. An improperly marked ballot, especially when voter intent is not clear, could result in that ballot being discounted.

No voter should have his or her ballot discounted. To avoid that, voters are responsible for marking their ballots correctly.

Voters, if you care enough to vote, care enough to properly mark a ballot. Be fair to yourself and the candidates you support.