New law confuses Hailey election volunteers, delays results
Votes for "Dr. Evil" and "Popeye" draw criticism
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Election night in Hailey was a comedy turned nightmare.
During the Nov. 2 election confusion, ballots in Hailey were mishandled
by volunteers. Results were delayed. Some voters were rebuked by poll volunteers for
voting for imaginary characters like "Dr. Evil" and "Popeye."
And, as in Ketchum, long lines, generated by the big recreation bond
issue, frayed voters tempers.
Whats more, the Hailey voting confusion occurred in an election
in which the two council seats werent even contested.
Despite disagreement between city officials and election volunteers as
to the correct number of votes cast in the city election, the Hailey City Council voted
unanimously Tuesday night to approve the election results.
Cause of the disagreement was a new state law that requires write-in
candidates to register at least 14 days before an election. The law states that no
write-in candidate "shall be counted unless a declaration of intent has been
Hailey had no such candidates registered by election day, yet of the
733 ballots cast, 44 included write-in votes and were deemed spoiled by election
Election judge April Mac-Leod, whose job it was to count the ballots
after polls closed Tuesday night, said she wrongly assumed a ballot with any number of
write-ins should be considered entirely spoiled, regardless of whether there was another
correctly marked vote for a legitimate candidate on the ballot.
But, she said, "There seems to be a lot of confusion as to how the
ballots are counted."
City Clerk Heather Dawson agreed.
Dawson said that instructions provided by the state are vague, but in
her understanding, ballots with one unregistered write-in and one legitimate vote should
not have been entirely spoiled.
If the ballots had been counted that way, the two city council
candidates, Susan McBryant and Rick Davis, each would have received about 10 more votes
each. But unless either McBryant or Davis asks for a recount within 20 days of the
election, the current results will go into record.
Dawson said that a request for a recount is unlikely because the
election was uncontested.
MacLeod said the uncontested election was the cause of the high number
of write-in votes in the first place. Whats more, she said, many voters didnt
realize the election was uncontested until they received a ballot.
MacLeod said people asked, "Why am I voting on this?"
Some handed back blank ballots. At least one wrote "no
contest" on a ballot. Others cast votes for Daryl James, Other, Mini Me, Dr. Evil, No
Confidence and Popeye.
"Its not a joking matter," MacLeod said. "I think
voters need to accept some responsibility" for the problems the city and election
volunteers had in canvassing the votes.
MacLeod said voters need to be better informed about how the election
process works so that problems can be avoided in the future.
The state agrees. The secretary of states office recommended that
cities not include instructions about voting for write-in candidates on ballots. It is the
responsibility of write-in candidates, not the city, to inform voters of their candidacy,
the secretary of states office argued.
For her part, Dawson admitted that she did not communicate clearly with
election volunteers before the election about how the votes should be counted.
In the future, Dawson said, she plans to oversee the counting of
ballots after polls close on election day.
In Ketchum, city clerk, Sandy Cady said long voter lines were due to a
consolidation of precinct voting places in a non-mayoral-year election and that the bond
issue produced an unexpectedly high turnout.
But, she said, in her experience, its not unusual for things to
get backed up when a county and city election are held simultaneously in a single room, as
they were last Wednesday.