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Registered Democrat given Republican primary election ballot

April 23, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A registered member of the Democratic Party was given a Republican primary election ballot on the first day of early voting, apparently by mistake, Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr. said Friday.

"We're still looking into it," Small said Friday.

Small said his office contacted Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely about the situation and also has been in communication with West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant's office.

The voter, Ann Bradshaw of Martinsburg, did not alert poll workers of the apparent mistake on Wednesday and didn't contact Small until Thursday morning, Small said.

After hearing her concerns, Small said he allowed her to cast a provisional ballot in the Democratic Party's primary.

The Berkeley County Commission, which will convene as the county's election canvassing board, will decide whether Bradshaw's ballot and other provisional ballots cast in the election will be counted, but not until after the May 11 primary, according to state code.

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When contacted about the ballots cast, Jake Glance, Tennant's spokesman, said Friday he could not comment about whether any law had been broken because Tennant, who is the state's chief election officer, might have to investigate the situation.

Glance said in an e-mail that "a decision on what to do with the first ballot (cast by Bradshaw) would be made by the circuit court, but only if a challenge to the election outcome is filed after the canvassing and any recount."

"What to do about the first vote is a determination that would be made by (a) circuit judge," Glance said. "The challenge process does not involve the Secretary of State."

Small said poll workers who are staffing the early voting precinct at 110 W. King St. have been warned about being attentive to the process.

"The same thing could happen at the polls (on May 11)," Small said.

The Republican ballot that Bradshaw cast cannot be retrieved from the county's iVotronic touch-screen voting system, much like a paper ballot could not be retrieved because ballots are not signed by the voter.

The polls are staffed equally by members of the Republican and Democratic parties and the error occurred when Bradshaw's voter registration information was being verified, according to Small's office.

"It is just as much my fault as it is (the poll worker)," Bradshaw said of the mistake.

Bradshaw said she was concentrating on who to vote for in the county-level races and admitted she should have asked for help, but didn't.

Small said Bradshaw signed a blue poll slip, which clearly states it is for voting in the Republican Party primary. Screen captures of the Republican primary ballot released Thursday clearly indicate the political party at the top of five pages.

During early voting, Democratic voters should sign a green poll slip and individuals who only wish to vote in nonpartisan races, such as the Berkeley County Board of Education, should sign a white slip, according to the county clerk's office.

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