Marion County warns voters to check absentee ballots for errors

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The Marion County Election Board is urging voters who receive absentee ballots for the upcoming election to check over their ballot to make sure it has two sets of initials required for the vote to be valid.

The alert comes after the election board was made aware of at least one ballot mailed to a voter without the initials, making it invalid.

Some 123,000 Marion County voters requested absentee ballots in the May primary, an unprecedented number, and the office is already seeing a rising number of applications for November’s election because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The election office said as voters receive their ballots they should verify that the precinct on their ballot matches the precinct on their ballot envelope and that two sets of initials—belonging to election officials—are there.

“The Marion County Election Board is staffed with employees and volunteers working tirelessly to ensure our democracy functions,” Myla Eldridge, Marion County Clerk, said in written comments. “Last week, nearly 50,000 ballots were mailed to Marion County voters, and with that volume, there will be clerical errors. Luckily, any mistake can be corrected by the Election Board staff.”

Susan Roederer, a Marion County resident, told IBJ she and her husband requested absentee ballots and received them in the mail but didn’t open them right away. Then they saw a post on their neighborhood’s Next Door site saying some ballots were being mailed without both sets of initials, invalidating them.

When they opened their ballots, both were missing the initials, she said. When her husband called the Marion County Clerk’s Office to find out what they needed to do, he was told they both needed to bring their ballots into the clerk’s office to be destroyed, sign an affidavit and the office would try to send them a new ballot.

Russell Hollis, deputy director of the Marion County Clerk’s Office, confirmed to IBJ last week that he was made aware of at least one ballot missing the set of initials. The office had already been planning to inform voters through social media and other messaging that they needed to check the initials on their ballots.

Additional quality assurances have been put in place to prevent ballots from being mailed without the initials in the future, he said.

If voters find an issue with their ballot, they should call the election board at 317-327-5100 and press 1 for more information.

Roederer said addressing the issue has been confusing, and she and her husband have decided they do not trust the absentee ballot process and will instead vote early, bringing their defective ballot and the affidavit with them.

“Is this voter suppression or just a hot mess with a very crucial election on the horizon,” she asked.

Hollis told IBJ that state law prohibits the office from pre-printing the bipartisan initials of election officials on ballots to prevent such a situation from occurring, but there is an easy fix and there’s plenty of time for voters to request and receive a new ballot if necessary.

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