'Bulleting' the ballot with blanks.

AuthorBarnes, George

Byline: George Barnes

When a city or town election is held and 40 percent or more of the voters show up to cast ballots, people start ringing church bells in celebration.

Kind of pathetic, right? I think it is, but I know 40 percent voter turnout is rare except in really small communities. A majority of people don't vote except in presidential elections.

I could go on and on about how I feel about people who don't vote, but I have to be honest: Sometimes I feel a bit aggravated with the process and consider staying home myself.

What has me fussing and fuming this week is something called bulleting. I am not a fan of bulleting or candidates who bullet because I think it games the political process.

Bulleting is when voters are asked on the ballot to vote for more than one candidate for an office, but they only vote for one. This mainly happens in city councilor-at-large races, but under the right circumstances it can happen in selectman or school committee races.

When a voter bullets for a candidate, it unnaturally increases that candidate's support because all the blanks basically become negative votes for the other candidates. It also causes misleading results indicating a candidate is more popular than he or she really is in comparison to other candidates.

I know it sounds complex, but this year in Gardner there was a great example of the effect of bulleting. Prior to the election, City Clerk Alan L. Agnelli was told by one candidate he or she was planning to run a bulleting campaign. Based on results, there may have been bullets being aimed in favor of several candidates.

In Gardner, in a perfect world, each ballot should have had votes for six people for councilor-at-large. It would have been a total of 21,750 votes split between the 11 candidates on the ballot. But the results showed that in the at-large race, 6,454 of the 21,750 possible votes were blanks.

That means that if the blanks were divided among the 11 candidates, there would be just a hair less than 587 blank votes for each candidate. That is a lot of blanks.

As a journalist I try to be fair and look for alternatives. It could be that there were just a few thousand people who...

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