Some get 2 ballots, some get none

Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair doesn’t like the fact that some Oak Harbor School District voters received two absentee ballots in the mail this week, but what really worries her is that some did not receive any.

Among those who received two ballots were Jack and Julia Locke, residents of the West Beach area. Each received two ballots with identical mailing addresses.

Jack Locke said he’s been voting by absentee ballot “for quite some time,” but this is the first time he’s received two in the mail. He had no intention of taking advantage of the opportunity to vote twice, but he did worry that the mix-up could affect how his vote is counted.

“I don’t want to disqualify my vote,” Locke said. “And what about other voters?”

Sinclair said Locke’s vote will be counted. Even if he voted twice, the first ballot to arrive would be counted and the second one discarded. But like Locke, she’s concerned about other voters in the Oak Harbor School District.

“We believe there may be people who are regular, ongoing absentee voters that may not have received a ballot,” Sinclair said Friday morning. “That’s the danger out there, if we sent duplicates we may have shorted someone.”

In fact, late Friday afternoon Sinclair’s staff determined that one batch of Oak Harbor precinct ballots had not been sent out. They were trying to get those 174 ballots in the mail that day, but it may take until Monday.

The Auditor’s Office started hearing of duplicates on Wednesday, the day after ballots were mailed for the school district’s $54 million high school renovation election.

By Friday, the office had figured out what went wrong. Sinclair said 174 duplicate ballots were mailed to absentee voters in the West Beach, West View and Fort Nugent precincts.

Ballot envelopes are printed by trays and the printing takes a manual command. An election worker got distracted somehow and printed one tray twice.

“It was just human error,” Sinclair said.

That tray that should have been printed was not, which explains the Oak Harbor precinct ballots that were not sent out.

Cheryl Moss, program manager for certification and training in the Washington Secretary of State’s office, said it’s not unheard of for local auditors to inadvertently send out duplicate ballots.

“It does happen,” said Moss, who added she has talked to Sinclair about the problem. “I’m very confident they won’t be counting more than one ballot for a voter,” she said.

All absentee voters living in the Oak Harbor School District should have received a ballot by now, except for those left out by mistake. Sinclair said anyone who does not get a ballot should call the Auditor’s Office at 679-7366 just to make sure one is mailed to you.

For people who received duplicate ballots, Sinclair said the best thing to do is to destroy one of them. “Tear it up,” she said. “Don’t vote twice.” She said voting twice would cause a lot of wasted time, but still, one of the duplicate ballots would be counted.

It’s illegal to vote twice, of course, but anyone who innocently votes twice because they received two ballots won’t be in trouble. “It wouldn’t be considered a crime,” Sinclair said. “One would be counted — the first one that arrives.”

People who still vote at the polls don’t have to do anything except show up to vote on May 16. Polling places include the Oak Harbor School District Administration Building, Oak Harbor Middle School, Monroe Landing Fire Station and Taylor Road Fire Station.

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