2022 | Elections

Nearly 800 duplicate absentee ballots sent in error to Montgomery County voters

County’s acting election director says software is designed to reject second ballot if a resident votes twice

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Nearly 800 duplicate absentee ballots were mailed to Montgomery County registered voters’ homes in error for the upcoming July 19 primary, according to state and county elections officials.

According to a statement from the Maryland State Board of Elections on Wednesday, elections officials learned June 30 that duplicate ballots were sent to 791 county voters. 

“Elections officials are working with the vendor to ensure that this does not recur,” the statement read.

On July 1, a letter from the state Board of Elections was sent to voters who received a duplicate ballot stating that the state’s vendor for printing and distributing the ballots inadvertently sent a duplicate ballot by mistake to some voters in the county. The letter instructed voters who had returned one ballot to destroy the duplicate ballot. Voters who have both ballots are instructed to return one and destroy the other.

Alyson McLaughlin, the acting director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, told Bethesda Beat in an interview Wednesday that 99,828 voters have been mailed absentee ballots in the county, and 791 voters received the duplicate ballot.

McLaughlin said that all duplicate ballots are identical and have the same tracking number. If a voter were to complete two ballots and mail in both, the second ballot received would be automatically rejected by the state system that counts ballots.

“There’s a barcode on the envelope with a tracking number that we enter in and the tracking number is identical, so the system that we use would not recognize both as valid,” she said.

Although the counting of ballots is conducted at the county level, the software used to count the ballots is the same system used statewide, McLaughlin said. That state system includes information about the status of every voter’s absentee ballot, she said.

“When we receive a ballot in the mail or from one of our drop boxes, our personnel handle that mail and scan the barcode or the tracking number … and we enter the information into the state voter registration system,” she said. “If we receive a second ballot from a voter we will check to see if there was a defect from one of the ballots.”

Many situations arise, McLaughlin said, in which voters submit two absentee ballots, if they had requested a second absentee ballot. Those situations include voters who submit a ballot that wasn’t signed (a requirement for submitting an absentee ballot) or who change their political party registration.

In this case, McLaughlin said the problem is simply that some ballots were reprinted and sent to voters.

“I understand voters have anxiety about this process so I want to make sure I’m communicating that we have systems in place” to avoid counting a voter’s ballot twice, she said.

Taylor Corp., the Minnesota vendor that produces and distributes the ballots, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Early voting in Montgomery County for the primary begins Thursday. The last day to request an absentee ballot is July 12.

[For more information on candidates for local, state and federal races, check out the Bethesda Beat voters guide.]

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com