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Missing Marker For Ballots Confusing Voters  (TX)

KSAT.Com    17 October 2008

SAN ANTONIO While early voting begins Monday, thousands of Bexar County residents can begin their voting as soon as they receive their mail-in ballot, although some are finding the ballots confusing.

Barbara Steele said she was very excited to learn she was eligible for a mail-in ballot, but she said she found the instructions confusing. One note No. 4 stated ballots should be completed using only the marker provided.

The problem? No marker or writing instrument was included with the ballot.

Steele said she contacted the Secretary of State's office first, then the Bexar County Elections office, but received conflicting information.

"She gave me two options," Steele said. "I could use a Sharpie or a No. 2 pencil. Then I really became concerned."

Steele had also been told she could use a black pen, then a blue pen as well.

"I want my vote to count," she said. Steele said she has now decided to vote in person.

Elections Administrator Jackie Callanen said her office has received several calls similar to Steele's. She said the county used to send a pencil with the mail-in ballots, but was forced to stop when the envelopes would get stuck in post office sorting machines. The instruction about the marker must remain on the ballot despite the lack of a pencil because some precincts still use paper ballots, she said.

Voters can simply use a No. 2 pencil or a black or blue pen to fill out the ballot, Callanen said, but people who later decide to vote in person must take their mail-in ballot to their polling place so their respective vote will officially count.

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