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Bad ballots created headaches for election officials

May 12, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Because of voter error and faulty ballots, more than 150 ballots had to be re-created Tuesday night when Jefferson County election officials were counting ballots during the primary election, Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said Thursday.

For the first time on Tuesday, voters were able to use a new paper ballot system and new touch-screen voting machines.

With the new paper ballots, voters were instructed to fill in ovals beside candidate names.

Despite instructions on the ballot about how to fill in the ovals, some voters made an "x" in the oval, checked it or sometimes circled the candidates name, said Maghan, who updated the Jefferson County Commission on the election.

When that occurred, voting officials had to re-create the ballot so it could be properly counted in a new machine, which slowed the counting process Tuesday night, Maghan said.

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The ballots were re-created by bipartisan teams made up of one Democrat and one Republican or Independent, Maghan said. The teams would fill in the ovals for the voter, Maghan said.

Maghan said she felt comfortable with the security of the process, which is spelled out under state law.

Also, some ballots were not designed properly, Maghan said. There is a line running down the left side of the ballots, but in some cases, there were several lines, which interfered with the machine's counting, Maghan said.

In those cases, another ballot also had to be re-created, said Maghan, adding that 152 ballots had to be re-created.

"There were a lot of hands in the pot for all the problems," Maghan told the commissioners.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan said he was concerned about the slow pace of the counting, which did not end until Wednesday about 2 a.m., and Morgan especially was concerned in light of an approaching general election in November, when there will be many more voters.

"I think there's a lot to think about," Morgan said.

Maghan said she thinks the process will go faster next time because election workers know what issues for which to prepare. Also, Maghan said she is thinking about running public notices in newspapers before the November election, which will explain the correct way to fill out ballots.

Few people used the touch-screen voting machines, and Maghan said she thinks some of the problems might have been eliminated if those machines had been used more.

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