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Published: Friday, 2/15/2008

Lucas County to reprint, remail 6,500 faulty absentee ballots

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The Lucas County Board of Elections is reprinting and remailing about 6,500 absentee voter ballots that had an error that could have allowed Democrats to vote for both candidates for president.

Elections Director Jill Kelly said the mistake was brought to her attention Wednesday night. Since then she and Deputy Director Dan Pilrose have been working hard to fix the ballot, reprint thousands of copies, and begin mailing them to the approximately 6,500 people who received a ballot, she said.

The error was traced to the office's elections software employee whose job was to lay out the Democratic and Republican ballots for the March 4 primary election. He erroneously used the format of the Republican presidential ballot for the Democratic ballot when in fact the two parties select convention delegates differently.

"This is our fault because we have a responsibility to oversee everyone's work," Ms. Kelly said. "We thought we had. We missed it."

She said both political parties passed up an opportunity they had under state law to inspect the draft ballots to make sure they were correct.

Republican voters elect delegates both at-large statewide and by congressional district. Democrats elect only by congressional district.

Using the faulty ballot, it would be possible for someone to vote for the Hillary Clinton at-large delegate and the Barack Obama congressional district delegate and vice versa. Ms. Kelly said they would set up a screening in the office to collect any faulty ballots that may have been voted and will attempt to reach those voters to submit a corrected ballot.

If they are unable to get a corrected ballot and they find someone who has voted for both presidential candidates they would accept the vote cast in the congressional district box.

The office hopes to get reprinted ballots in the hands of people who already have received the absentee ballots by early next week. She said ballots sent to recipients living overseas or far away, such as military personnel, would be sent by overnight delivery.

The error was discovered by a Democratic voter who reported it to Yvonne Harper, executive director of the Lucas County Democratic Party, who phoned Ms. Kelly about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Ms. Kelly said the cost of the mistake has not been calculated. She said each faulty ballot cost about 37 cents.

Under state law, anyone can vote absentee, and Ms. Kelly has been urging voters to use the absentee ballot option to help reduce pressure at polling places on March 4.

She said she was "heartsick" over the error because the department was pleased with how quickly it had sent out the absentee ballots. The department has been urging citizens to vote early to minimize delays expected from a requirement of the Ohio secretary of state to provide paper ballots in addition to electronic touch-screen machines.

The absentee ballots must be received by 7:30 p.m. Election Day to be counted.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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