America's Election Snafus: 2001-2002

Election and Voting Problems: State by State continued


A two-year-old law requiring residents to have the same permanent and voting address is expected to cause some voter confusion during the upcoming November elections, in addition to generally depressing voter turnout of college students. East Lansing and Ann Arbor are expected to be the areas affected most. The Detroit Free Press reported that, as the voter registration deadline approached, there were stacks of voter registration cards in clerks’ offices in college towns, but many will be sent back to student’s hometowns.

In Detroit, the City Clerk was criticized by many after her office took two days to count absentee ballots in the August primary, missing the reporting deadline.

In the New Haven school district, a clerical error made by state officials led to several voters receiving registration cards listing the wrong school district before a September bond election. The Detroit News reported, “The errant cards, sent to residents in Macomb Township, might lead residents to believe they are not eligible to vote in New Haven’s upcoming election, officials fear. They hope to send out new cards before the vote.”

In Oakland County, improper ballot box seals affected a recount in a hotly contested state Senate primary race in September. 36 of the 109 precincts had not properly recorded the seal numbers on ballot boxes, so the Oakland and state boards of canvassers ruled that those ballots could not be counted. According to the Detroit Free Press, West Bloomfield Clerk Sharon Law said the state changed the way election workers record the seals in the poll books. “It would have been nice if they had told us that before the election,” Law said. “I feel bad for Kowall, but I don't think he would have picked up enough votes to win.” But Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State office, said the state does send out notices to local clerks on how to run an election.

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Ramsey County is working to fix polling place errors in the September 2002 primary that had voters in five St. Paul precincts going to polls in other precincts. The elections manager attributed the problems to mistakes in the maps drawn after recent redistricting. He said that necessary changes would be made in time for the general election.

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In Yazoo County, both Democratic Senate candidates were left off the primary ballot, affecting 3500 Democratic voters in the statewide race. County and state Democratic officials were unable to conclusively account for the error, but the state Democratic chairman planned to recommend certifying the election results despite the problem.

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In rural Holt County, thousands of absentee ballots were incorrectly printed. The party affiliations of Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan and GOP challenger Representative Jim Talent were reversed, apparently due to a typesetting error. Associated Press reported that, “After consulting with the secretary of state's office, the county decided to give those voters two options: They could send back the wrong ballot, request a corrected one and cast a new vote, or they could vote on the incorrect ballot, notify the clerk and leave it to the clerk's office to correct the ballot if needed.”

In St. Louis, absentee ballots were not available until long after the scheduled start of absentee voting. The city elections director blamed the delay on a series of court battles over ballot measures. In August 2002, St. Louis entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice meant to resolve widespread voter access problems in the November 2000 elections.

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In Nye County, some residents challenged the validity of almost 1,300 absentee voters — comprising about 7% of the county’s registered voters — after noticing irregularities after the September 3 primary. The senior deputy attorney general in charge of elections said, “I have been doing elections for over 10 years, and I have never seen this many challenges.” The county district attorney’s office is working overtime to investigate the large number of challenges.

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