Friday, May 25, 2012

Elections were legit, county officials say

Ballot mistake did not compromise process

Express Staff Writer

A printer's error and a misplaced poll log left some voters wondering about the validity of the Ketchum city election last week, but county election officials say the process was not compromised.

Rick Martin, a Buhl resident and campaign manager for Republican Precinct 8 Committeeman Scott Shane, said he was able to print "legal" ballots off of the Blaine County website before the election on May 15.

"Someone had posted on the [county website] the PDF for all 16 Blaine County ballots," Martin said in an interview last week. "I was able to print legal ballots."

The county posts sample ballots on its website, so voters can view the ballots ahead of time. Typically, these ballots state that they are samples, so that no one would mistake them for ballots that would be able to be cast.

County Elections Clerk Amy Rivkin said Wednesday that when the county's ballot printer sent her the files, he mistakenly sent files that read "Official Republican Primary Election Ballot" instead of "Sample Republican Primary Election Ballot." Those files were posted online.

The error was corrected before the election, but Martin contended that the entire election could have been compromised.

Michael Ward, Shane's appointed poll watcher, reported that when the county went to count the ballots from one of the Ketchum precincts, the poll log that records the number of ballots and voters was misplaced.


Election workers at the county were at first unable to find a poll log to confirm that the number of ballots cast, as reported by the poll workers, was accurate. A ballot counting machine at the county Election Office had counted one additional ballot cast. When the poll log, which counts the number of voters, was found early the next morning, the machine count turned out to be correct. The log indicated that poll workers in the Ketchum precinct had miscounted.

But Martin said this inaccurate count led him to believe that some sort of fraud had been committed—especially as Ketchum City Council candidate Michael David won his seat by only one vote.

"What I'm alleging happened, is when those ballots left Blaine County Precinct 4 [in Ketchum], the poll log disappeared, and someone possibly switched the ballots out," Martin said.

But Rivkin and Deputy Clerk Leslie Londos said that's impossible. Londos said County Clerk JoLynn Drage found the poll log the next morning and was able to confirm the ballot count, and Rivkin added that the ballots Martin was able to print out were not legal at all.

The ballots were lacking an official ballot stamp at the bottom, were the incorrect size and paper thickness, and were missing the official ballot's snipped upper-right corner, she said.

Rivkin said "there's no way" she would have counted a ballot that looked like Martin's.

"It would have stopped the [ballot counting] machine," she said. "[And] we handled them so much that we would have noticed [a false ballot]."

Election results were canvassed at the Blaine County Commission meeting Tuesday.

Katherine Wutz:

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