2016 | Politics

County Voter Receives Partially Filled-In Ballot During Early Voting

Board of Elections says isolated case resulted from poll worker's error

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Adam Mitchell took this picture of the ballot given to his wife with some Democratic candidates already selected

Adam Mitchell

A ballot with some Democratic candidates already chosen was handed to a voter at a Rockville early voting site, according to a letter sent by the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee to the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

“Only a thorough and public investigation will help to ensure the voters that they are not being disenfranchised by nefarious actors attempting to steal the election,” reads the letter, signed by central committee Chairman Michael L. Higgs. “The integrity of this election demands immediate action.”

Jim Shalleck, president of the county elections board and a former chairman of the Montgomery County GOP, said the incident was investigated and found to be an isolated case of human error by a poll worker.

"Our election director did investigate, and it's a case of an isolated mistake," Shalleck said. "To my knowledge, there have been no recurrences of that issue."

Elections board spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said the problem is connected to how election judges dispose of “spoiled ballots,” that is, ballots returned because voters made a mistake.

This is the first election that uses paper ballots in which a voter fills in circles for candidates, like a high school standardized test. When a voter makes a mistake, the voter should go to the ballot table, where judges hand out the paper ballots, and ask for a new one, Roher said.

A judge should then use a thick black marker to mark out the ovals and write “Spoiled” across the ballot, which should then be put into a spoiled ballot bag, she said.

Adam Mitchell said he, his wife, Shae, and his 7-year-old son went to vote at the Executive Office Building on the first day of early voting.

Mitchell said his ballot was torn out of a book, but his wife’s ballot was just handed to her. Shae Mitchell said she went to the voting booth, and saw her ballot already had been filled in for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen.

She said she gave it back to the election judge, who apologized and said that a woman with very poor eyesight had turned in the ballot because she needed a new ballot. Adam Mitchell said the filled-in ballot was set aside again.

“It could be accidentally given to another voter,” Adam Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he tried to tell the site's chief election judge what had happened as he was standing in line to enter his ballot into the scanner, but the judge dismissed his concerns.

“It left a bad taste in our mouths,” Mitchell said. 

Shalleck said 157,000 votes were cast by county voters during early voting, which ran from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3.

“Human error will occur. It’s unfortunate, but people working the polls are volunteers. They do their best, but on occasion they make a mistake,” he said.

Roher said voters who have concerns should contact an election judge before scanning their ballots.