Voters in part of Huron County received wrong ballot

Aaron Krause • May 26, 2014 at 12:07 PM

If you see something wrong, say something.

It's advice that can not only apply to security, but can prevent ballot mishaps during election day.

Cindy Smith contacted the Reflector two days after this month's primary election advising people at a Willard Christian Alliance Church precinct received a non-partisan ballot -- even though they declared a specific party.

"They were having problems getting the card reader to work and when they did, unknowingly to the voters, the voters all received the nonpartisan ballot," Smith wrote.

"Therefore, they did not get to vote on any races such as the Huron County Commissioner race, etc. This went on for quite a while. Obviously, the election workers were not trained very well."

That's not the case, said Tom Gerrity, deputy director of the Huron County Board of Elections.

Gerrity said election officials hold about 15 classes for poll workers. The sessions last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours.

"Everyone is trained before election day," he said.

The length of the classes depend on how well poll workers understand what's expected of them and if they have any questions.

"We stress this election after election after election," Gerrity said, referring to ensuring people get the right ballot. "I think all in all they do a good job."

Gerrity said he hadn't heard of the situation at the Willard church until a reporter notified him about Smith's email.

He said while board of elections officials train poll workers, they're human and therefore make mistakes.

If, while voting, someone realizes he or she received the wrong ballot, they should notify a poll worker, Gerrity said.

If that person can't straighten out the situation, Gerrity said board of elections officials would be happy to talk them through the problem over the phone. They're also willing to travel to a particular precinct to help make a situation right.

"I'm not going to lie to you, it happens every single election," Gerrity said about voters asking for a certain ballot and receiving the wrong one. "We stress to all our election officials to make sure that the voters get the right ballot."

At the same time, "we're dealing with human beings who can make mistakes," Gerrity said. "It's very unfortunate that this happened. But the person should have told the poll worker. They would have fixed it."

Gerrity said of all the poll workers at a particular location, only one is usually new to the process. There should've been 10 workers at the Willard Christian Alliance Church, Gerrity said.

He outlined the process that happens after a voter walks into a precinct.

The first individual a voter encounters has a signature book. That poll worker asks the voter to state his name and address and requests identification. The information this poll worker has reveals which precinct that particular voter's in. This poll worker gives voters a paper card they'll need later in the process.

The second person voters encounter has a poll book with voter information, to double check that all the information is correct.

The third poll worker is the encoder. Voters gives that person the paper card they were given. This worker prepares the card by machine by adding precinct information and party affiliation. The voter is then asked to place their card in a voting booth and begin the voting process.

"If Norwalk 1C Democrat doesn't come out, let us know," Gerrity said, citing a hypothetical situation. "The voter has some responsibility to say 'Hey, I got the wrong one.'

"If this went on for a long time, we should have been notified," he added.

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