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About 130 Hamilton Co. ballots tossed after error  (IN)
Robert Annis    Indianapolis Star   07 November 2008

At least 130 people who voted Tuesday at Carmel's University High School had their ballots tossed because of a clerical mistake. [Article edited by the Star after initial posting. 350 changed to 140.]

The paper ballots, used to speed up voting because of heavy turnout in the Clay Center precinct, were discarded Tuesday evening because poll workers didn't initial them as required by state law, said Hamilton County Election Board President Tory Callaghan Castor.

She chalked up the mistake to workers' inexperience with paper ballots and the pressures of dealing with unusually high turnout.

"I don't fault any of our volunteers," Callaghan Castor said. "The code is very specific, and there were some unfortunate consequences.

"The role of the election board is to preserve the integrity of the election process. That's our highest priority. Unfortunately, sometimes that results in circumstances we don't like."

The Election Board's decision to toss the paper ballots doesn't seem to have affected any races. The ballot in the Clay Center 3 precinct included no contests decided by 350 votes or less.

Callaghan Castor said she wasn't aware of any other precincts that used paper ballots.

Throughout most of Election Day, voters at University High School endured lines several hours long to cast their ballots.

Elections Administrator Kathy Richardson said she couldn't dispatch more machines to the precinct until 4:30 p.m. because they needed to keep some available in case of mechanical problems elsewhere.

About 350 paper ballots accompanied the additional voting machines sent to University High School.

Richardson estimated the average wait in Hamilton County at about an hour.

According to final statistics, nearly 75 percent of the county's 175,538 registered voters cast a ballot, with more than 98,000 voting on Election Day. About 25,000 people approximately 20 percent of voters voted early.

In the 2004 election, 106,083 votes were cast in Hamilton County, with nearly 95,000 coming on Election Day.

"We had the same issue with lines four years ago," Richardson said. "It's not a new situation. Do you buy all these machines you're going to utilize only every four years?

That's the dilemma. And I'm not the only one that makes the decision; there's the County Council and the County Commissioners."

Richardson and Callaghan Castor said election officials would study Tuesday's events and try to make changes for the future.

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