County auditor races to replace misprinted ballots (CO)
HeraldNet. October 27, 2009. By Noah Haglund, Herald Writer
EVERETT — A husband and wife were surprised when they received their ballots at their Everett home and found different races listed for next week's general election.
When the husband reported the discrepancy on Monday, the Snohomish County Auditor's Office found 112 mismatched ballots, Auditor Carolyn Weikel said. Elections staff worked with the printing company to identify errors related to the front and back sides of the ballots being printed out of sequence. The auditor's office planned to send out corrected versions this morning.
“We're sending out new ballots with a letter telling the voter that an error was made on the first ballot and to please vote with the new one we've sent them,” Weikel said. “They need to vote that second ballot if they want their votes to count.”
The problem can be corrected, but voters with misprinted forms have less time to respond. The deadline remains the same; all ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3, or left in a county -off box by 8 p.m. that day.
As of Monday, 372,633 ballots had been sent out and 41,744 — 11.2 percent — had been returned, Weikel said. No counting starts until Election Day. Elections staff plan to pull out any mismatched forms so they won't get counted.
This was the first time this kind of printing glitch has surfaced since Snohomish County went to all-mail elections three years ago, Weikel said. The incorrect ballots are not concentrated in any particular district, but spread throughout the county.
The problem stemmed from a human error at K & H Printers in Everett, she said. When one printer jammed, a worker entered the wrong information into another machine to restart the process. That led to fronts and backs getting out of sequence. Though many fronts and backs happened to line up for long stretches of the printing process, the two sides would get mixed up whenever the style of ballot changed to accommodate different local races.
“The mistake was at the printer's, but they were the ones who were able to go back through their database to find what happened so we can get this corrected,” Weikel said.
Voters would know they have a misprinted ballot if races or issues appear from a part of the county where they are not eligible to vote — say, a Lynnwood City Council race for a voter who lives just outside Arlington. The auditor's office is not calling voters who received these ballots directly because it does not have all of their phone numbers, Weikel said.
Printing errors occur in most election cycles and are more likely in odd years when local races lead to numerous ballot variations, said Sheryl Moss, a Washington Secretary of State's Office employee who trains and certifies county elections administrators.
“Usually the things that happen are very minor, small groups of voters or perhaps a typo,” Moss said. “Knowing about it this early does give them an opportunity to send out corrected ballots.”
She added that she had never heard of this particular problem and that Snohomish County appeared to be responding appropriately.