Nearly 200 Greene County registered voters may have received duplicate absentee ballot cards in the mail during the past two weeks.
Greene County Clerk Jackie Winstead acknowledged last week that a mistake was made some time between Sept. 15-18, which was the deadline to get the absentee ballot application packets in the mail.
Winstead initially said about 100 duplicates were mailed out, but upped that estimate to 190 at a special called meeting of the Greene County Election Board on Friday.
Winstead said two clerks in the Voter Registration Office inadvertently put two ballot cards in some of the mailed out envelopes.
She stated that voters in Beech Creek 1 & 2, Center 1 & 2, Jefferson 1 & 2, Highland and Richland 1 & 2 precincts were affected.
"By state law, if the clerk receives an absentee vote with two ballot cards, that vote can not be counted," Winstead wrote in a letter dated Sept. 29, that is being mailed to 499 absentee voters in the county.
She said a total of 499 absentee voting packets were mailed before the Sept. 18 deadline.
The duplicate cards are computer-type cards that have the fill-in circles. These cards are processed in the clerk's office by members of the Election Board on election day.
The County Election Board, which consists of Winstead, Gary Hudson and Bill Sipes, decided to do a re-mailing to all 499 registered voters who were sent packets during the period in question.
Included in the new mailing will be a letter and an ABS-5 form. If a person wants a new ballot they have to request it by filling out the ABS-5 form and sending it back to the clerk's office, Winstead explained.
"It was decided that we would send out a letter to the original 499 with an ABS-5 form. If they felt like there was anything wrong with their ballot or if they have any concerns, all they have to fill out is the ABS-5 form and sent it back to us," Winstead said Wednesday. "We called everyone in the original mailing ... that had gotten the duplicate ballots. ... We had to leave messages or couldn't contact 29 voters."
A total of 26 individuals have requested an ABS-5 form.
When asked if all of the absentees received back in the office, which totaled 236 as of Wednesday morning, will be voided, Winstead replied, "Only the ones that sent us back the ABS-5s. Only the people who are uncertain whether there was an irregularity with their ballots. That's why they are given this choice. That's why we are doing the whole 499. If they had any questions, they need to send us the ABS-5 form and we will send them a new ballot."
Winstead estimated it will cost about $1 per packet to pay the postage for the re-mailing.
The clerk is hopeful no problems will arise election night.
"I think we have worked hard to take care of the problem and if anybody has any inkling that there might be irregularities, they can surely send the ABS-5 form in."
Also present at the Election Board meeting were County Democrat Party Chairman Jeff Lehman and Vice Chairperson Sue McDonald; County Republican Party Chair Otto Prow and Vice Chairman Pam Yoho; as well attorneys for both the state Democrat and Republican parties and commissioner's attorney Marilyn Hartman.
Lehman said he is OK with the solution to what he called a mix-up.
"It was just a mix-up and they are trying to straighten it out where it will be fair to everybody," Lehman said.
Yoho said that issuing an explanation letter to all voters that made application for an absentee ballot is the only viable solution.
"I do feel that individuals will be confused by the letter and some will ignore it or chose not to vote because of the confusing instructions," Yoho stated. "It is critical that this election be fair, but I do feel that the citizens need to recognize the possible outcome and expense of this error."
She estimated that the cost to county taxpayers for this mistake could range could range between $4,000 to $5,000, when everything is tallied up.
Yoho said her estimate is based on the cost of postage and the expenses related to the printing of new replacement ballots, envelopes, voter bill of rights sheets, voting instructions, the mistake explanation letter, cost of card sleeves and labor to assemble the packets.
Winstead said that estimate by Yoho "is high" in her opinion and the actual cost will be much less, but she did not cite an exact dollar figure.
The General Election will be Nov. 2.
Winstead said no satellite voting will be done this year because of low voter turnouts in the last General Election.
If anyone has questions contact the clerk's office by calling 384-8532.