The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 20, 2012

Prosecutor asked to review 3 ballots

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Prosecutors will be asked to examine three provisional ballots cast in the Nov. 6 election for possible criminal wrong-doing, Ashtabula County Board of Elections members agreed at Monday’s meeting.

The ballots stood out among around 130 rejected by the board for a variety of reasons and will not be included when the final, official tally is conducted over the coming days. The board will meet at 3 p.m. Nov. 27 to certify the results. Members authorized election workers to begin tallying results contained in approximately 1,231 provisionals.

The trio of suspicious ballot each had different circumstances, said Carol Lovas, director. One was cast on Election Day by someone who had already submitted an absentee ballot; while another dealt with a nursing home resident who apparently sent in a ballot from Florida as well as Ashtabula County, she said.

The final ballot was cast by a North Kingsville resident at his old polling place in Jefferson, Lovas said. A relative contacted the election board to report the man was “bragging” about his vote to others, she said.

There were plenty of other reasons why provisional ballots were rejected. The vast majority were cast by people not registered to vote, board members said. Several were not signed, while others were cast at the wrong polling place and wrong precinct. Four of the provisionals were inserted into tabulating machines at polling places, which is not allowed. Provisional ballots are excluded from Election Day tallies until voters eligibility can be verified.

Precinct workers are taught to keep provisionals out of the machines, board members were told. “It was poll worker error,” Lovas said.

People usually vote provisionally if they can’t produce identification at their assigned polling place or wind up at a different precinct. Also to be included in the final count are 48 absentees ballots, including many with the proper postmark but delivered to the board after Nov. 6.

More than 42,000 Ashtabula County votes were cast in the general election, and to have just a handful of problems is a huge compliment to the election staff, members agreed.

“There is no such thing as a perfect election, but when you have such an infinitesimal amount of error, you’re pretty darn close,” said board member Charlie Frye.

Board chairman Joe Varckette agreed, praising Lovas, deputy director Duane Feher and their employees, saying their preparation paid big dividends. “Things went very smoothly,” Varckette said.