Ballot shortage causes lines in EllsworthA mix-up in an order of ballots helped to cause a long late-morning line of voters and a late night counting votes at the Ellsworth village polling station Tuesday.
By: Sean Scallon, Pierce County Herald
A mix-up in an order and breakdown in communications helped to cause a long late-morning line of voters and a late night counting votes at the Ellsworth village polling station Tuesday.
The village only received 250 of the opti-scan ballots, which are fed into a machine which counts the votes, after ordering 1,200 regular ballots and 50 absentee ballots from the company Pierce County uses to print them.
Pierce County Clerk Jamie Feuerhelm said the order was put out to the company, Command Central, a Minnesota based election services firm, but the invoice or "X-chart" sheet listed only 250 ballots to printed out and sent to Ellsworth. Feuerhelm emailed Ellsworth Village Clerk Peggy Nelson apologizing for not catching the change on the original order.
"Clearly there was a mix-up with the printing company because we ordered 1,200 ballots," Nelson said.
Nelson said the village had just 200 ballots on hand before the election after giving out absentee ballots. The company which prints the ballots for the county does mail them to each municipality and town, and Nelson said she thought the rest of the order was on the way.
Because of the heavy turnout for the mid-term election, the opti-scan ballots went quickly. The village has a touch-screen voting machine, but only one. When the opti-scan ballots ran out, voters could only use the touchscreen as paper versions of the opti-scan ballot were being photocopied to be used as soon as the regular ballots were gone.
"I don't know if the high turnout caught them by surprise, but when you only have one voting machine working in the polling place, it's going to really slow things down," Feuerhelm said.
This caused as much as a two-hour delay for some voters waiting in line outside the Village Hall. Others left the line to vote later in the day. The photocopied ballots had to be counted by hand that evening, delaying the final tally. Nelson said she began to run off copies of the paper ballots around 11 a.m. using the copier in the courthouse.
"Jerry (Village President Gerald DeWolfe) and I agreed the county made the mistake and they should pay the cost for copying the ballots, not the village," Nelson said. "I regret not photocopying them earlier in the morning, but it defeats the purpose of using machines to count the vote if you have to count them by hand and I didn't realize how long it was taking for people to use the touchscreen machine."