After winning a federal lawsuit to secure the right to be placed on the Ward 3 Ann Arbor city council Democratic primary ballot, Bob Dascola’s name was inadvertently omitted from the first wave of absentee ballots sent out to voters. The Washtenaw County clerk’s office was alerted to the problem on the morning of June 27, 2014.
Ed Golembiewski, chief deputy county clerk and elections director, spoke with The Chronicle by phone and said that corrected ballots were currently being printed and would be provided to the city clerk’s office by noon on Monday, June 30 for mailing. The exact wording of the letter to voters accompanying the corrected ballots was being worked out by the county and city clerk’s offices. Updated at 5 p.m.: According to a followup email and interview with Golembiewski, the language in the letters will be based on a template that will be provided by the state Bureau of Elections. Roughly 400 ballots are being reprinted and re-mailed, Golembiewski said.
Dascola’s name will appear on the corrected ballot, along with those of Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen. In-person voting for the primary will take place on Aug. 5.
Golembiewski indicated that if a voter has already mailed in an incorrect ballot and subsequently mails in the corrected ballot, then their vote on the corrected ballot will be the one that is counted. Clerk’s staff is still reviewing how the scenario will be evaluated if a voter mails in only an incorrect ballot – marked with a vote for Grand or McMullen, or with a write-in vote for Dascola. Updated at 5 p.m.: According to a followup email and interview with Golembiewski, the state of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections has indicated that if someone mails in only the incorrect ballot, then their Ward 3 vote on the incorrect ballot should not be counted. Their votes in other races, however, should be counted. [.pdf of email from Michigan Dept. of State confirming procedures for handling this situation]
Golembiewski estimated the ballpark cost of reprinting the ballots at around $3,000. Updated at 5 p.m.: According to a followup interview with Golembiewski, the county’s third-party ballot programmer, Government Business Systems (GBS), has expressed some openness to helping to pay for the cost of reprinting ballots. All ballots for Ward 3 will need to be reprinted, including those that were to be used for in-person voting on Election Day.
Golembiewski noted that there’s “a ton of proofing” that goes into checking the ballots. The omission of Dascola’s name stemmed from an extended chain of events that ultimately resulted in the incorrect ballots being sent out.
Dascola’s name was initially not included in the information provided to the county’s third-party ballot programmer – Government Business Systems (GBS). But when a federal court ruling was made last month on May 20, 2014, that the city charter’s eligibility requirements were not enforceable, the new Ward 3 candidate slate – including Dascola – was provided to GBS. Proofs of the ballots were then sent to the county clerk and the city clerk as well as to the candidates. Those proofs included Dascola’s name – so the ballots survived those checks.
Then, a change to the ballots was requested by the city of Ypsilanti – to remove city council races from Ypsilanti ballots where there was not a contested race. This is a city charter provision – that when there’s not more than one candidate for a primary race, it’s not included on the ballot. But instead of removing the Ypsilanti council races, GBS removed the city of Ann Arbor council races. The proofing process identified that error. But in restoring the Ann Arbor city council races to the ballot, GBS reverted to the initial slate – which did not include Dascola’s name.
At that point, Golembiewski said, the mistake was missed – by him and by the county election commission, which consists of the county clerk (Larry Kestenbaum), county treasurer (Catherine McClary) and the chief probate judge (Darlene O’Brien). A resident who received the incorrect ballot identified the error.
When the clerk’s office was notified on the morning of June 27, Golembiewski said he immediately focused on getting the mistake corrected.