Another error found on Sebastian County election ballots

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

It turns out the order of Republican candidates for lieutenant governor was not the only mistake on Sebastian County ballots.

Following news Wednesday (March 26) that former Sebastian County Election Coordinator David Mansell resigned over an error which placed the GOP candidates for the state's number two job in the wrong order, Election Commission Chairman Lee Webb said his office discovered an additional error on the Republican ballots Thursday (March 27).

According to Webb, U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's last name is spelled wrong on the Republican ballot. Griffin, who is running for lieutenant governor, had an "e" added to his last name, resulting in the ballot reading, "Congressman Tim Griffen."

The difference between the error which initially led to Mansell's resignation and this latest error is the fact that the error involving Griffin made it to press, which means Republican ballots in the county must be reprinted at a cost to the county, Webb said.

"We get reimbursed from the state for ballots, but we don't get reimbursed for wrong ballots," he said.

County Judge David Hudson said it is too early to tell how much the error will cost.

"We have a line item, so it will come out of the budget. If it's not reimbursable, it will come out of the general fund."

Hudson said estimates from the county's printing vendor should be available Friday (March 28).

As for how unusual it is for two errors to be caught on a ballot involving one race, the judge said it was not all that unusual for errors to occur. Which is why a system is in place which is designed to catch such errors.

"I don't know the details (of this particular situation), but whenever you're dealing with all the different pieces of detailed activity with these ballots, periodically things come up. It's not unusual from my perspective in the last 16 years I've been associated with the process. That's why we have checklists."

Webb elaborated on the process of catching errors, which include having not only the election coordinator inspecting ballots for misspellings, but also the respective chairman of the county's political parties.

In the case of the mixup on Griffin's name, an earlier misspelling which had his first name as "Tine" was caught and corrected before any other proofers saw the error. But in the latest case, Sebastian County Republican Chairman Rex Terry reviewed the ballot and found no errors, according to Webb, deepening the mystery of how the misspelling made it to the printers in the first place.

Hudson said the mistake will cause him to work with the Election Commission to review procedures and make changes if necessary to keep any other costly mistakes from occurring.

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"At this point, I don't know how many people looked at them and what exactly happened. that's why you have the documentation and steps. Typically we have pretty good processes. We've had pretty good, error-free (ballots) with past elections. I think that's our record."

For his part, Griffin said in an e-mail to The City Wire that he was not upset about the errors.

"It was an honest mistake, and I am confident the County will get it corrected."

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