Thursday, October 23, 2008

Absentee Ballots Being Reprinted - Gwinnett County

Gwinnett County elections officials have discovered a problem with 19,000 absentee ballots that have been sent to voters. The ovals where voters mark their choices are too thick for the optical scanning machines to read.

Elections Director Lynn Ledford said routine equipment testing two weeks prior to the election revealed the problem. State law requires such testing no later than three days before Election Day. “We want to assure everyone who has used an absentee ballot that every vote will count,” Ledford said.

The absentee ballots have been reprinted and new requests are being filled with correct ones that will scan properly, according to Ledford. She also emphasized that voters who are holding absentee ballots have the option of voting the absentee ballot or surrendering it and voting on Election Day.

Votes on incorrect forms will be counted using a manual process observed by a representative of each political party and a monitor from the Secretary of State’s office. Non-partisan candidates will also be allowed a monitor. State law requires that all participants be sequestered with no outside contact to prevent information leaks.

Unreadable ballots will be duplicated in accordance with state law so that they can be scanned and the copy will then be stored with the original in case a recount is necessary.

Voters submit absentee ballots in two envelopes, so the identity of any individual voter will not be known once the outer envelope is removed. Election workers will tabulate and post the votes as usual after the polls have closed on Election Day. No delayed results are expected.

“The problem is not apparent to the naked eye but the machine can’t read the ovals,” said Ledford. “And we can’t reprogram the scanner after it has been certified by state officials.”
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