MASON COUNTY — Last week’s discovery of a ballot error made by the Office of the Secretary of State has added to the already busy election schedule in county clerks’ offices around the state.
The West Virginia County Clerks’ Association is diligently resolving the error attributed to the Office of the Secretary of State’s failure to catch an incorrect instruction to voters regarding the number of Republican delegates to the national convention.
County Clerks are working to ensure voters the error will be corrected within the parameters of the law. The error is found in the instructions to the voter on the Republican primary ballots which incorrectly instruct the voter to choose 18 delegates to the Republican National Convention when the actual number is 19 delegates. The Secretary of State’s office became aware of the error after primary ballots had been printed and some absentee ballots already mailed.
The law already contemplates the finding of errors and provides for correction through the counties’ Ballot Commissions. If a county’s Ballot Commissioners find or are made aware of an error they may have the ballots reprinted or require that a sticker be placed over the error, taking care to cover the entire error without covering any other portion of the ballot. The Ballot Commissioners are given no other option under West Virginia law. The county clerks are working with their Ballot Commissioners and the Secretary of State’s office to accommodate all types of voting systems and to meet statutory deadlines for mailing of absentee ballots and federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voters’ requirements.
The original order from the Secretary of State’s office required an addendum to the ballot instruction to correct the error.
“This separate card or addendum of instructions is not one of the options given to our Ballot Commissioners and we felt it was important to strictly interpret and adhere to State law in order to maintain the integrity of the ballot and election process. We appreciate that the Secretary of State came to agreement with us and rescinded her original order,” explained Diana Cromley, Mason County Clerk and president of the West Virginia County Clerks’ Association.
The Secretary of State’s office will absorb all costs that counties incur to correct the error, including reprinting of ballots, reprogramming of electronic voting systems, supply costs, and overtime for county clerks’ staff if incurred, which could be significant.
“Ballot Commissions in every county will be holding emergency meetings within the next few days to declare a finding of an error and approve a resolution,” Cromley noted.