Absentee ballots make additional work, cost
In the month leading up to the Nov. 2 election, the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office received anywhere from two to five duplicate requests mixed in among the 50-130 new requests for absentee ballots each day.
In some cases, voters submitted as many as three requests. It’s a situation becoming more common with the rise of absentee voting.
Auditor Scott Reneker, commissioner of elections in Jefferson County, suspects the pressure to vote early, now coming from multiple sources, is a contributing factor.
Changes in legislation have made it possible for voters to request absentee ballots extremely early. Reneker’s office began receiving requests in May when campaign staffers were promoting the June primary.
“Of course, it’s way too early to prepare any kind of a mailing. We don’t even know who the candidates are until September after filing deadlines,” Reneker said.
Those early requests are filed and then fulfilled once ballots are ready; by then, some voters have forgotten all about the request they submitted, and Reneker’s staff fields calls from residents wondering why they’ve received an absentee ballot.
A misplaced or thrown out absentee ballot isn’t uncommon either.
“The vast, vast majority [of voters] are very sincere and serious about it, but there are occasions where there’s some indifference … and they’re pretty casual and think nothing of throwing a ballot away,” Reneker said.
Reneker’s office replaced 27 absentee ballots prior to the last election. Sixteen voters surrendered their absentee ballots to vote on Election Day at the polls. Another 30 were able to vote at the polls after election officials followed an established procedure to determine their absentee ballots had not been returned.
“It’s quite an accounting challenge — a lot of these circumstances that we’re required to oversee. When issuing a second ballot to a voter, we need to be certain their first ballot has not been turned in for counting,” Reneker said.
“The other thing that hung up absentee voters is incomplete absentee ballot requests,” Reneker said. “The law requires that we have certain information from them: name, voting address, where they’d like the ballot mailed, signature, date, birth date.”
Some of the request cards political parties sent to registered voters clearly identified the required information. Others didn’t, and Reneker cited one that had even been printed with the clerk’s office as the — incorrect — return address.
Seventy-two voters opted not to correct their incomplete requests for absentee ballots after being contacted by Reneker’s staff. Roughly the same number did go on to complete their requests and vote absentee.
For the complete article, see the Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010, printed edition of The Fairfield Ledger.