Mistakes on several absentee ballots may cause area citizens to cast the wrong vote.

On Oct. 5, a woman discovered a mistake on her absentee ballot. The language for the special election regarding the Limited Self-Governance Act was not on the ballot. After closer examination, officials found a computer printing error wrongly numbered eight of the 13 styles of voting ballots. Seventy-one voters in Marshall County received the “bad” ballots, according to absentee election manager Cheryl Pierce.

On Oct. 9, a letter was sent to the 71 voters explaining the mistake along with a new, corrected ballot. Those voters are asked to fill out the entire “good” ballot and return both the “bad” and the “good” ballots.

“If you receive a new ballot, please be sure and get it back to us,” Pierce said. “Absentee voting is as good as going to the polls. Every single vote counts. And if you sign up to vote absentee, you will not be able to vote at the polls. So it’s important you send in those ballots.”

When Pierce receives the new ballot, she will “spoil” the old one and place “B” for “bad” in the upper corner of the old ballot and “G” for good in the upper corner of the new ballot. Both ballots will then be placed in the same box.

As of Thursday, 29 of the bad ballots had been returned, along with seven good ballots.

Andrea LeCroy, of the Marshall County probate office, said the Attorney General’s office stated if a voter does not return the good ballot, votes on the bad one will have to be counted.

“We have to err on the side of the voter,” she said. “We can’t penalize the voter on everything, because it’s not their fault.”

Pierce and LeCroy have considered the possibility of hand-counting the votes, but said they were discouraged from that by the Secretary of State because “we would be opening ourselves up to more errors.”

“It would be easier if I could do it all by hand, but I’m going to do what the law says and it says I can’t touch the ballots,” Pierce said.

A computer system was used for absentee voting for the first time this year, and LeCroy and Pierce said they have learned a lot from the mistake.

“We had to change one number and it put all the ballots off,” LeCroy said. “When we got the new ballots, I just checked the one I asked them to change.  I know now to check all the ballot styles.”

They said this proves how important it is to know what you’re voting for and to carefully check your ballots.

“I thank God for that little lady who caught that one mistake,” Pierce said. “She saved us a lot more trouble. There’s so many that have no idea what’s supposed to be on their ballot.”

Any questions may be directed to Pierce at 256-571-7790 or LeCroy at 256-571-7770.

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