Does Your Ballot Have Style?

Election districts can be chaos. You probably live in more than one district because you might have a school district, a taxing district, a fire district, a water district, a state rep district, a senatorial district, etc.

To make sure voters are getting the right candidates on their ballots, election officials must generate customized ballots. These are called ‘ballot styles.’ (Seriously? Why not ballot versions? Styles makes me think of fashion shows and uncomfortable clothing. Bad word choice!)

“A ballot style displays the unique combination of contests and candidates that voters see on the ballot depending on where they live.” Some large city/county jurisdictions might have to create hundreds of ballot styles.

If I live in school district A and state rep district B, my ballot will only have candidates for those elections on it. That’s one ‘style.’ If you live in school district B and state rep district C, your ballot will look different than mine. That’s a second ‘style.’

In a 2019 municipal election, St. Louis County in Illinois (?) had 300 different ballot styles. They had to design and print 300 different ballots. Yikes.

This mind-blowing complexity shows why conspiracy theorists have no idea what they’re talking about when they claim that some sort of illegal ballot box stuffing occurred in 2020. Within one city, there isn’t just one generic ballot you could falsify and run through the tabulator…there may be hundreds.

And unless you happen to be at the correct precinct for that specific ballot style, the machines will reject the ballots.

Oh, and the poll worker in charge of guarding the vote tabulator? (There’s a six-foot protected space around the vote counter. Only one voter at a time may step inside that line.) That poll worker is not going to just step aside if you walk in with an armful of fake ballots and explain that you just need to run them through the tabulator. Holy Frijoles? Personally, I’d tackle you and ask questions later. We’d confiscate the ballots, call the cops, and you’ll spend some time in jail.

Oh, and FYI. After elections, those tabulators and their special thumb drives are kept under lock and key and, if the county is doing this correctly, can only be accessed by a Republican and a Democrat together.

(Information on ballot styles comes from Election Insider, by Gloria Shur Bilchik)


1 thought on “Does Your Ballot Have Style?”

  1. Interesting about the number of different ballots that each state/city must generate for a single election. You are coming up with some very interesting facts. Keep it coming. I love learning.


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The Big Pivot

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After twenty-five years on the farm, I’m adjusting to the adventures of city life. Part of that adjustment is figuring out what I want to write about now, since sheep are no longer part of my daily life. I’m challenging myself creatively by painting with pastels and playing the ukelele as I seek my new writing path.

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Catherine Friend is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.