Some voters in South Toledo were given incorrect instructions that they had to pull a partisan ballot, such as Democratic or Republican, to vote in the special District 2 city council election for more than the first two hours of voting on Tuesday.
The misdirection from poll workers likely cost independent candidate Marcia Helman votes, Ms. Helman said Thursday.
Ms. Helman said she received complaints from supporters who tried to vote for her at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, St. Petri Lutheran Church, Beverly School, and Westside Community Church.
“People were being denied a paper ballot. And some of them were unable to come back and vote. The workers and judges were totally unaware of the instructions,” Ms. Helman said.
Ms. Helman lost by 303 votes to endorsed Democrat Matt Cherry, according to unofficial results from the Lucas County Board of Elections.
Elections Director Gina Kaczala acknowledged poll workers were giving voters incorrect information in the election and said they were reminded of the proper procedure when the board started getting calls about 9 a.m.
“As soon as we heard it, we got people on the phone and told them that [voters] can ask for an issues-only ballot,” she said.
Matt McClellan, spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted, said there is no specific provision in law for voiding an election because of erroneous instructions given to voters.
“It would likely need to be decided by a court,” Mr. McClellan said.
Ms. Helman said she didn’t know if she wanted to challenge the election but said she would run if it were held again.
By state law, the elections board is controlled by two appointees each from the Democratic and Republican parties, with no independent members.
Steve Serchuk, a South Toledo resident who voted at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, said he was denied a city council ballot by a poll worker who told him he could vote only if he pulled a partisan ballot.
A partisan ballot is required to vote for Republican or Democrat nomination candidates or the parties’ central committees.
“I said I wanted to vote on the issues and District 2. They said you have to declare a party,” said Mr. Serchuk.
He said he left the building and phoned the elections board, which apparently led to the flurry of calls to polling place captains because when he went back in, he was allowed to vote for both state Issue 1 and the council race.
“I thought I was in a Third World country,” Mr. Serchuk said. He said the board of elections should have notified by mail every voter in District 2 of the paper ballot that would be used in the special council election.
John Oster, 59, a civilian military employee who works in Detroit, said he was handed a paper ballot for Issue 1 and a card for the machine — which also allowed him to vote for State Issue 1 — but didn’t realize the mistake until later when he talked to his wife and wondered why he didn’t see the council candidates’ names.
He said the paper ballot he voted on had the number 20 on it, which suggested to him that 19 people had already been unnecessarily given a paper ballot for Issue 1 rather than the city council race by 7 a.m., when he voted at St. Petri. The polls opened on Tuesday at 6:30 a.m.
“If they were all going to vote for [Ms. Helman] that’s at least 20 less votes she would have lost by,” Mr. Oster said.
He said the one election worker at the polling place appeared to be overwhelmed.
The elections board was forced to put the special election for an open city council seat on a separate paper ballot and separate voter database because the city’s March 27 candidate filing deadline conflicted with the board’s requirement to have its ballot complete in time for early voting on April 1.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said he will ask city council to approve a city charter amendment to bring the city’s filing deadlines in line with the secretary of state’s regulations for when elections boards must finalize the ballot.
Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.