Error sends some Warren County voters to wrong polling place

Published: Tuesday, May 07, 2019 @ 5:24 PM

Tuesday was Election Day for many area voters. FILE
Tuesday was Election Day for many area voters. FILE

An election-day notification error sent some Warren County voters to the wrong place.

On Tuesday, voters on a five-year, 0.5 percent income tax — sought for the second time by the Clinton-Massie Local Schools — went to vote at Salem Elementary Schools, rather than the Harlan Twp. Fire Station.

The error could have affected no more than 110 voters, and probably 11 or less, based on a 10 percent turnout, according to Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County Board of Elections.

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While hopeful, Matt Baker, superintendent for Clinton-Massie Schools, said he would wait to see the final tally before deciding whether to contest the election.

Baker said he would only consider challenging the result if the error could have changed the outcome of the vote on the issue, expected to raise $1.1 million a year for five years for operating expenses.

Last November, the issue – tried after voters twice rejected property tax levies – failed by 192 votes, 1,587 to 1,779, almost 53 percent of more than 3,300 voters, according to the Clinton County Board of Elections.

“If it’s a lot closer, maybe it’s something we may want to look into,” Baker said before polls closed.

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Sleeth explained said the board was preparing to notify voters about temporary polling place changes for the election when the location was briefly changed from the fire station to school.

“These precincts were actually not moving so we changed it right back. Unfortunately temporary polling location change cards were generated by our voter registration system when that change was made,” Sleeth said in an emailed response. “Because we were not aware they had been generated, these notices were printed and mailed following our usual procedures for sending all voter notices.”

The error affected 110 voters, 81 voters from precinct 185/2 and 29 voters for precinct 187/2.

“Basically we sent voters to Salem Elementary temporarily when they were actually voting in their regular polling location,” Sleeth added.

A series of steps were taken to minimize the damage, eventually resulting about noon in opening up the elementary school as a polling place.

“The voters who show up and vote will be voting a provisional ballot. At the close of the election, in our office, we will review the envelopes of any ballots cast at this location to ensure that they did not vote at the other location as well. The ballots cast at Salem Elementary will be included in our unofficial canvass on Election Night,” Sleeth said.

Baker said he also was getting reports Tuesday from voters unable to get to the polls in the Chester Twp. Fire Station, due to road work.

“I’m getting reports form community members they can’t even get in,” he said. “I understand mistakes are made.”