Because of a printing error, some absentee ballots recently mailed out exclude the Democratic presidential ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards.
Some absentee ballots distributed to Hamilton County voters do not include the name of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, local election officials confirmed today.
Because of a printing error — limited, election officials believe, to only a few ballots in the Forest Park area — absentee ballots recently mailed out exclude the Democratic presidential ticket of Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards.
“It’s a screw-up,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. “This just feeds the paranoia that’s out there. The tragic thing is that even though I think we will have a very fair and accurate count here, this will cause people to question the accuracy of our operation.
Although election officials believe only two voters have received the inaccurate ballot to date, Burke said he is worried that the mix-up “will open us up to all kinds of questions and concerns.” He also conceded that some may question whether the problem is, indeed, limited to only a few ballots.
“I’m happy we’re talking about a very small number,” Burke said. “But it’s something that never should have happened.”
One of the voters who received the inaccurate ballot said today she “just couldn’t believe it” when she opened her absentee ballot envelope and noticed that Kerry’s name was missing.
“I knew enough to see something was wrong,” said the voter, who asked not to be identified. “But you wonder whether others maybe didn’t notice it before they sent their ballots back.”
The printing error is the second major mistake to plague Hamilton County’s absentee ballots for the Nov. 2 election.
Earlier this month, officials scrapped 17,500 absentee ballots after Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell ordered presidential candidate Ralph Nader off the ballot because of invalid signatures on his candidacy petitions. Those ballots also had been tainted by the elections board’s discovery that the punch positions of Hamilton County Engineer Bill Brayshaw and one of the candidates for Ohio Supreme Court had been switched.
Nader’s removal from ballots throughout Ohio also figures into the new problem that caused Kerry’s name to be dropped from some absentee ballots in Hamilton County. In seeking to remove Nader’s name from some local ballots, Hamilton County officials inadvertently struck Kerry’s name instead.
On the flawed ballots, the words “Candidate removed” appear on the line where Kerry’s name should appear. On the line below, Nader’s name — where “Candidate removed” actually should have been printed — remains.
John Williams, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, explained that there are 72 different ballots countywide covering different political jurisdictions. For each of those 72 ballots, the order in which candidates’ names are listed is rotated 10 times, Williams said.
The problem with Kerry’s name being dropped occurred with one rotation on a ballot used in Forest Park. Although 22 absentee ballots in that area have gone out to voters so far, election officials believe that only two of them are the flawed ballots without Kerry’s name, Williams said.
Williams was contacted over the weekend by one of the voters who received an inaccurate ballot and gave her a corrected ballot. Election officials today were trying to contact the rest of the 22 people who received the particular style of ballot at issue to find the one person they know also has a ballot without Kerry’s name.
“Mistakes happen in every election,” Williams said. “I’m not happy about it, but we’re trying to do what we can to correct it. This time, you’re under their magnifying glass, so it gets more attention.”
What is especially frustrating, Williams said, is that the mistake actually had been caught by the election board’s proof readers. But when a broken copier forced officials to use an old copying machine, the old, mistaken ballot format without Kerry’s name accidentally was printed, he said.
“It’s unfortunate it happened,” Williams said. “But I don’t think there’s any reason for people to worry about the accuracy of the election.”
Author: Barry M. Horstman
News Service: Cincinnati Post