Post-election reflections -- and sponges | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Almanac Online |

Local Blogs

An Alternative View

By Diana Diamond

E-mail Diana Diamond

About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

View all posts from Diana Diamond

Post-election reflections -- and sponges

Uploaded: Nov 8, 2018
Let’s talk local. In the five-candidate Palo Alto City Council race, Alison Cormack was the big winner. She campaigned actively, sent out fliers and ran lots of ads, had a distinctive logo, raised lots of money, and smiled a lot, so it’s no surprise that she won in a big way. The surprise, to me, was the $36,000 she received from Innovation for Everyone, co-founded by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s President and CEO Carl Guardino, based in San Jose, and the California Apartment Association Housing Solutions Committee, a statewide organization with an office in San Jose. I am puzzled why these two outside groups decided to finance Cormack’s $67,000 campaign chest (as of Oct. 20). Cory Wolbach’s campaign focused much more on housing than Cormack’s did.

So on our new seven-member council (down from nine), winner Eric Filseth and Tom Dubois are slow growthers, as well as Lydia Kou, while the growth group is Mayor Liz Kniss, and council members Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka. Cormack said at one event she is slow-growther -- but she acts like a growth person, and had the support of growthers Kniss, Fine and Greg Scharff (who is termed out). It will be interesting to see where Cormack really stands when she sits on the council.

Sixty-five percent (574,000) of Santa Clara County voters cast their ballots this year, which is wonderful. Usually at midterm elections, we’ve had a 25 to 35 percent turnout. This time everyone was talking about Trump, how important this election was, the terrible Congressional polarization, and it was great to see so many get so involved, although locally, we had no big controversies. This was an important election, but the 2020 election will be critical and of course there will be a huge outpouring two years from now.

Unfortunately, as of Thursday midday, Santa Clara County still had 270,000 absentee votes to count. I sent in my ballot a week before Nov. 6, so presumably it was among the 304,000 already counted. I started voting absentee a couple of years ago and I love it, but it’s disappointing to know many of our votes have not even been counted yet. We’ve got to speed up the counting.

One 2020 problem will be a longer ballot with more offices to vote for. This time we had 43 measures on our local ballots; 2020 will probably see 60 or so. I heard some say as they got near the end of the ballot this year, they simply gave up and didn’t vote for local races. That’s not good.

One NYT letter writer said Thursday that she can order a sponge online and get it delivered three hours later with a printed receipt, but election results still take days to tally and we get no receipt Why can this country be so good about sponges but so bad about quick election results?

Years ago France held national elections on two days over a weekend. That system would make it easier for people to get to the polls without missing work, and the results could be counted each day. But surely someone in our country must be bright enough to figure out how get rid of old voting machines that break down, how to eliminate long voting lines around the country and inadequate polling places, and how to create a more advanced ballot counting system.

Any ideas?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Protest Tonight, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 8, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Protest Tonight


Web Link

Los Altos.
Palo Alto. (1400+ rsvp)
Portola Valley.
Redwood City.
San Mateo. (900+ rsvp)

Posted by Random Resident, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 8, 2018 at 8:25 pm

Sponges are low-stakes. Our votes are not.

Election rules are on a state-by-state basis, voting equipment is funded at the county (or equivalent) level. If, like most countries, we had *national* standards instead of a hodge-podge of local standards perhaps we could do a better job.

We should also have universal voter registration, compulsory voting, and *secure* (and non-proprietary!) voting equipment, to run elections on a holiday, with a Hare-Clark (look it up!) voting system.

Posted by Nonresident, a resident of another community,
on Nov 8, 2018 at 9:10 pm

Nonresident is a registered user.

All-mail voting like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado can help. Yes, ballots that are mailed on the last day won't get counted that day. But if you put enough drop boxes out, people will drop them in there and they can be picked up throughout the days before and voting day and be fed into the voting machines so just the last few have to be fed in after the polls, er, boxes, close.

Posted by Abitarian, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 9, 2018 at 7:38 am

Diana wrote:

"But surely someone in our country must be bright enough to figure out how get rid of old voting machines that break down, how to eliminate long voting lines around the country and inadequate polling places, and how to create a more advanced ballot counting system."


Unfortunately, there are places in our country where the existence of long voting lines and inadequate polling places is intentionally planned in order to discourage voting in minority neighborhoods.

Posted by Miriam Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 9, 2018 at 11:25 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

The registrar of voters now sends Vote By Mail ballots postage-oaid, whereas before we had to affix postage. I am sure some people choose to wait to vote until the last minute for legitimate reasons, but some of it is procrastination. I have worked many elections and know that a large # of VBM ballots are brought to precincts the day of the election. ROV also now allows a grace period for ballots that are postmarked E Day, rather than requiring them to arrive by E Day, so they have to wait for several days after Tuesday.

All signatures on VBM and Provisional ballots must be checked at ROV in San Jose. This accounts for a lot of the time needed to vet these ballots. The Roster sheets voters sign when they vote in person can be run thru a scanner for checking. I believe the ballots in envelopes require more handling, and the Provisional envelopes require additional checking, to be sure the individual is a) registered to vote and b) has not already voted in another manner.

We save ourselves, as taxpayers, a lot of money if we mail our ballots in advance of Election Day.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Some kind of national voting standards might be a step forward, or not.

In the Florida 2000 election which was basically the first election in my living memory where he had real issues the standards in Florida were not upheld because one party threw a fit instead of allowing the ballots to be counted. If you remember there was the "hanging chad" issue which made machine counting the ballots impossible unless every chad, or loose punched out paper in the ballot was detached. The work of counting the ballots was to classify all the ballots, and then interpret the voter's intent. Seemed fair to me, but the Bush/Republican side took it to the Supreme Court where 2 justices had relatives within the Bush administration or campaign and refused to recuse themselves. When the count was resumed ... Republicans operatives under the command of James T. Baker III stormed the precincts and violently stopped the count of the Florida ballots. Months later, almost a year, the fact was revealed that Al Gore won the election, and not just the popular vote.

The law, at least in Florida, is that when you process a ballot you must with best effort try to determine the voter;s intent. If you look at what can go wrong with a ballot, this is a reasonable and important policy, for either side.

I noticed problems with our ballots this year ... the ones that look like a college Scan-Tron test where you must connect two ends of an arrow. A sheet of instructions is given out saying that only a single-line through the selection is correct.

I had never seen before the sheet of instructions on how to do this, where they have all the ridiculous things people might do, like put a circle in the middle of the arrow, or a scribble, star, etc.

One thing I did not expect to see was that it was specifically stated to put one line from one side to the other, and not fill it in as you would on a computer graded test. My inclination was to fill in the width of the arrow from one side to the other, and when I said that the poll worker at my precinct told me that we are not supposed to do that. Whether that would spoil the ballot, or would throw an exception that would then be looked at by hand, he did not know. This is an opening for dirty tricks that in my view must be resolved because we have no idea what the process is after those ballots leave our hands, or what the counting machines are programmed to do.

I am concerned about this, that there might be huge numbers of spoiled ballots because people are not aware of this, and no one is checking it.

Does anyone know if there is a record about how many points on every ballot are uncounted or spoiled? Do we have county or statewide metrics on this? This is a potential powder-keg that could be used to manipulate the results of a vote - if a human being does not step in and interpret the voter's intent of the ballot cast.

Posted by Miriam Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 9, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Folks, this is probably more than you want to know, but here are procedures for precincts I found online. If I find any Q&A about the questions raised above, I will forward them.
Web Link
All of us who have worked as election officers encourage those who have not to do so, if only for one election. You will learn so much and become more confident in our election system. I have read that the lack of a uniform process across counties and states is actually a security plus, although it is not designed for that reason.

Posted by Miriam Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 9, 2018 at 1:17 pm

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Here is a more user-friendly guide about elections, with contact information for the ROV staff and descriptions of their areas of responsibility. I hope it will be helpful in explaining the election management process in our county.

Web Link

Posted by wayne douglass, a resident of another community,
on Nov 10, 2018 at 11:23 am

wayne douglass is a registered user.

Diana writes: "In the five-candidate Palo Alto City Council race, Alison Cormack was the big winner. She campaigned actively, sent out fliers and ran lots of ads, had a distinctive logo, raised lots of money, and smiled a lot, so it's no surprise that she won in a big way." Yet, she says, "It will be interesting to see where Cormack really stands when she sits on the council." I don't know about you, but after everything that Cormack did to win, (sending out fliers, running lots of ads, having a distinctive logo, raising lots of money, campaigning actively, smiling a lot) you'd think we'd know where she really stands, or what was this campaign for?Was it just a charade? Did we witness a sad parody of politics, or is this what politics has come down to? A spectacle like some game show on a cable channel? Junk sports, junk news, sponsored "content" shilling the latest "miracle" cure for something that will give you clear skin, a white smile, made from a substance found in jellyfish.
dYGh8I am not the President of the United States, but I play one on TV.

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 10, 2018 at 4:44 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Alison Cormack managed to use her huge campaign contribution fund [portion removed] to flood the voters with sleek campaign material, yet revealing nothing about her actual positions. I suspect she is a more adult and more sophisticated version of Cory Wolbach, and the voters will probably realize it after her first vote on development issues.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 10, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Annette is a registered user.

65% voter turnout? That would be great, but I think it was lower. On Wednesday, the Registrar of Voters website reported voter turnout of ~35% (which would mean 65% did not vote). By Friday that # had increased to ~38% and today it shows turnout of 44.83%. There are 885,764 registered voters in the county and 397,047 voted. At least that's what is shown on the website this evening (Sat., 9pm).

Posted by Unhappy with cormack is maurucio, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 11, 2018 at 8:01 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 13, 2018 at 6:50 am

Annette is a registered user.

Update: in addition to writing good columns, DD may be prescient! Per the SCC Registrar of Voters website, as of yesterday voter turnout was 56.97%. Apparently lots of absentee ballots trickled in after election day. This is encouraging.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Which homes should lose gas service first?
By Sherry Listgarten | 5 comments | 20,397 views

Boichik Bagels is opening its newest – and largest – location in Santa Clara this week
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,726 views

I Do I Don't: How to build a better marriage Page 15
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,389 views

By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 1,267 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $300,000.