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Omission results in paper ballots
Union County race causes more problems
Palladium-Item, November 6, 2006

LIBERTY, Ind. Voters in five Union County precincts will cast supplemental paper ballots Tuesday for the commissioners' race, ballots that will be handcounted on election night.

Election officials discovered Saturday that 1st district commissioner candidates Republican Gary Davis and Democrat Tom Dunaway weren't on ballots in some precincts.
The error wasn't discovered until Saturday morning, when Dunaway and his brother-in-law, Donald Hendrix, went to the courthouse to vote. Hendrix said he was suprised when he couldn't find Dunaway's name on the ballot. Hendrix called out to Dunaway that he couldn't vote for him because he wasn't on the ballot.

"I went to the table and started looking at the absentee ballots and I wasn't on some of them," Dunaway said. "It's disappointing. I have spent money on this race."

Officials originally feared the names were missing from ballots in eight of the county's 10 precincts, but on Sunday Clerk Pat Hensley examined all the ballots and determined only five precincts Center III, Liberty Township, Harmony Township, Union Township and West College Corner lack the commissioner race.

The first ballot information Hensley sent to Fidlar Election Co. was correct, but multiple ballot versions were produced because the company kept making errors. The election board proofread the last proof ballots, but didn't catch the missing commissioners' race.

Hensley said both she and her husband, Azel, had voted absentee ballots and neither noticed the omission.

It's too late now to get new official optical scan ballots printed by Fidlar and a revised program tested in the county's scanners. The county could have new ballots printed by a private printer, but they would all have to be counted by hand, which could increase errors. The only other options were to hold a special election or create a paper supplemental ballot for the commissioners' race.

Election board members Hensley, Democrat Nick Fankhauser and Republican Dianna Crouse met at noon Sunday with Davis, Dunaway, Democrat Chairman Dennis Spaeth and Republican Chairman Jerry Petro to discuss the decision. Dunaway said he didn't ask for a special election because he didn't want to cost the county any more money.

Davis said a special election would likely have a poor turnout and the winner ed by a small group of people. The supplemental ballot seemed the best solution, but there will be absentee voters who can't cast one, Davis said.

"I had a call (Sunday evening) from a voter who can't vote again because the person was leaving on a plane and won't be back until Thursday. That would have been a vote for me, they said. I hope whoever wins, wins by a decisive margin. I don't know how this happened and I'm doubly surprised it went on this far," Davis said. "We spent $130,000 to get a fair voting system and this is what we have."

Hensley said 259 absentee ballots have been cast, but only 121 ballots lacked the commissioner's race.

Absentee voting board members Annastastia Warrick and Georgia Smith spent Sunday calling absentee voters and asking them to return to the courthouse on Monday or Tuesday to cast the supplemental ballot. Hensley reported late Sunday that her office was able to reach almost all the voters who had already cast absentee and provide them with new ballots.

Absentee voting ends at noon Monday, but Hensley said the absentee board will be available in the courthouse basement all day Monday and Tuesday so local absentee voters can cast supplemental ballots. The traveling absentee board will also revisit homebound voters with supplemental ballots, she said.

College students were also called and will be faxed an official supplemental ballot, which they can fax back to the clerk's office, Fankhauser said. Election law allows voting by fax, he said.

Fankhauser, a computer programmer, created the supplemental ballot on the computer. The ballot must bear the official seal and be initialed at the polls by the poll clerks.

"This is certainly not the way we want to run an election," Fankhauser said. "We're fortunate we are a small county and we have a group of friendly and competent people who just want to do the right thing."


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