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County auditor says 120,000 ballots to be reprinted

The Associated Press - Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Cass County auditor says 120,000 county ballots for the Nov. 2 general election will be reprinted because of mistakes in the wording involving a proposed constitutional amendment.

The ballots in error say that both a "yes" vote and "no" vote would approve a proposed constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Auditor Mike Montplaisir said Elections Systems and Software Inc., of Omaha, Neb., the company that produced the confusing ballots will pay for reprinting them, and replacements will arrive well before Election Day.

State Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, said the error should have been caught earlier.

"We just don't know how many ballots were sent out incorrectly," he said. "When one answer goes both ways, I think that's disenfranchising that voter."

Montplaisir estimated last week fewer than 100 flawed ballots were sent overseas, mainly to members of the military. He said the printer error did not affect the vote's meaning. This week, he said, incorrect ballots had been found in one precinct with 23 West Fargo voters.

Robert Uebel, chairman of Equality North Dakota, a group urging a "no" vote on the proposed amendment, pardoned the mistake when it was first discovered on overseas ballots. Now, he said, "The word that we're getting is that the auditor's office isn't taking this as seriously as they should."

Montplaisir said the mistake is unfortunate. "But those things happen. We're correcting it as quickly as we can," he said.

To fix the mistake on printed absentee ballots, the word "don't" was added, so the "no" option now reads: "A 'NO' vote means you don't approve the measure as set out above."

Montplaisir said people who are confused can call his office.

"Some of the people that were overseas did that," he said. "Some sent e-mails and we responded to those and they understood, yes means yes and no means no."

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