Poll worker error led to incorrect ballot style in Carriere, Poplarville beat 3

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Complaints of voters receiving the incorrect ballot during last week’s election has been attributed to human error on poll workers’ part.

Circuit Clerk Vickie Hariel said during Tuesday’s election she received a call from a candidate that a voter at the Carriere precinct did not get the proper ballot, and thereby could not vote for the proper Justice Court Judge.

After going to the precinct that day Hariel said she observed poll workers encoding cards at that location and determined the problem to be poll workers encoding voting cards with the wrong information. This last election entailed 108 total ballot styles, which were supposed to be entered into the encoding machine with a single digit, but some poll workers were confused and used two digits instead, which the encoder does not understand and led to the wrong ballot being displayed on the voting machine.

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That problem led to voters receiving a ballot for the wrong  Justice Court Judge.

In the Gumpond precinct a similar situation occurred, where voters received incorrect ballots for the Superintendent of Education. In that situation however the problem was caused by a poll worker incorrectly clearing out a voting card that was used by a previous voter. Instead of clearing out the card so it could be reprogrammed the old ballot remained on the card, giving the voter the wrong ballot.

Hariel said after she received word of the problem at Carriere she drove down to rectify the problem, which was done shortly after 10:30 a.m. Hariel said she then instructed the poll workers that voters who had received the wrong ballot needed to be informed that they could revote via paper ballot, but only for the candidates that were left off the voting machine. Hariel said a few voters did take advantage of that offer, but could not say exactly how many.

Poplarville Beat 3 had a similar issue, Hariel said, which was also corrected.

She said the error would not have affected the outcome of the Justice Court Judge election due to the fact that the opposed race, the east side race, had a 500 vote gap and only about 650 voters voted in the Republican races at that precinct all day. The west side Justice Court Judge race was unopposed. Hariel said that fact combined with the issue being fixed shortly after 10:30 a.m. means the outcome would have been the same.

As for Gumpond Hariel said the small number of voters voting in that precinct could not have changed the outcome of that election either.

A problem was also reported at the Nicholson precinct, but Hariel said she was at that precinct at the time and was able to determine the voter was mistaken as to whether they should be voting in the west or east elections.

“When it comes right down to it, human error played the part,” Hariel said.

Hariel also said voters have a responsibility to know which candidates should be on their ballot by knowing which precinct they live in. If an error is discovered then the voter should report the error on the ballot to a poll worker, Hariel said.

For the coming elections Hariel plans to have all poll workers use the encoders in her presence to ensure they know the proper procedure for encoding voter cards.