The June 23 primary election, which was conducted under extraordinary circumstances because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, was managed with minimal problems in Daviess County, according to a report the Daviess County Clerk’s Office submitted this week to the Daviess County grand jury.
Clerk’s offices are required to submit post-election reports to local grand juries detailing issues they experienced with voting.
Slightly more than 18,500 absentee ballots were requested in the county, and 16,103 were mailed back. Of those, 740 were rejected for a variety of reasons such as not having signatures.
“The outer envelope, some people did not sign that,” county Clerk Leslie McCarty said Tuesday. “Some people had ripped the flap” which was only to be removed by election workers. In some cases, the inner envelope was missing.
In other words, 740 voters didn’t follow the requirements set out by the state for absentee ballots to be counted.
“When we would send out the ballots, we actually put the ballot instructions (over the ballot) so that was the first thing you’d see,” McCarty said.
Of the ballots returned properly, 74 were rejected because the signature on the envelopes didn’t match the voter’s signature on file. Voters had until June 29, six days after the primary, to rectify the situation.
McCarty said some voters with challenged signatures might not have had time to come to the office or had the technology to scan a copy of their driver’s license signature and send it to be checked.
“Maybe they missed the deadline, and some people flat-out didn’t want to do it,” McCarty said.
On election day, the average wait time at the Owensboro Sportscenter, the county’s only polling place, was between 4 and 5 minutes, the grand jury report says.
“Our verdict on the process and experience exceeded our expectations,” the report says. “Over 4,200 voters came through the center and completed their ballots on Election Day in a socially distant environment while our poll workers did an excellent job.”
One person managed to vote twice, in person and by mailing his absentee ballot later that day. The man had signed an affidavit saying he would not return his paper ballot. That incident is expected to be presented to the grand jury for possible criminal charges.
“This is a major lesson we have taken away from this experience, and will adjust procedures to prevent any possibility of this occurring whether we face similar circumstances in the future or not,” the report says.
The report says the clerk’s office staff will begin making contingency plans for the November election, “in case that the virus changes the course of our normal Election once again.” McCarty said some discussion about altering the November election took place earlier this week when the state Board of Elections met in Frankfort.
“The governor and secretary of state have already started talking about a plan,” McCarty said. If the general election has to be conducted in a similar way as the primary, the state will need to release a plan quickly, McCarty said.
In Daviess County, “we would have to have several teams dedicated” to preparing absentee ballots, answering phones and other election duties, McCarty said. A space outside the clerk’s office would also be needed because of the scope of the work preparing to run a presidential election through absentee ballots, she said.
While a small number of full-time and temporary election workers all answered phones and prepared absentee ballots for the primary, workers would have to be assigned to just those tasks to handle the workload, McCarty said.
“There’s no way they could share duties,” she said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse