In the 2007 local elections, the St Joe Valley Green Party gathered signatures to place one Green Party candidate on the ballot and also ran three write-in candidates: for South Bend Mayor, South Bend Common Council At-Large and Mishawaka Common Council At-Large. 

Election Board’s “Solution” for Handling Write-in Votes

Green Party members and the write-in candidates attended several St Joe County Election Board meetings prior to the November 2007 elections to press the board on how they intended to handle legally cast write-in votes this time around.   The Election Board reported that “diverters” could be purchased for each ballot scanner, which would divert ballots cast with write-in votes to be counted separately after the polls closed.   Citing the cost of the diverters,  however, the St Joe County Election Board’s “solution” to handling write-in votes in 2007 was to require voters to place ballots with any write-in votes into a separate bin below the scanning device.   The local print and television media ran stories on this procedure devised by the Election Board.

Problems Persist

Multiple problems as a result of this “solution” were observed and reported by voters as well as designated Green Party observers in the 2007 election:  

1) Violations of privacy 

Anyone present at the polls knew when a voter had cast a vote for a write-in candidate because of the separate treatment for ballots with write-in votes.  Therefore, these voters’ privacy was violated by virtue of where their ballots were required to be placed.   This was especially true for voters in Mishawaka, where only one candidate, the Green Party candidate, was a write-in candidate.  Anyone voting for this candidate would automatically be revealing their choice for the At-Large seat when they put their ballot into the “special slot for write-in ballots”.

 2)  Human Error Disenfranchises Voters

Furthermore, several instances were documented in which voters were erroneously instructed by poll workers to put their ballots into the scanners, despite the voter’s objections to the contrary. 

In these cases, the voters had more information regarding the handling of write-in votes than did poll workers.  When ballots with write-in votes were fed into the scanner, the machine tallied a “write-in” vote but was unable to read the name the voter had written. 

Re-Count Question

Although the scanning machines reported write-in votes had been cast, to determine for whom those votes had been cast would, according to Election Officials, require a recount.   Going forward with a count of the write-in votes would have cost the local Green Party several thousand dollars including lawyer and filing fees as well as the cost to open the scanners at each precinct in both South Bend and Mishawaka.  This, agreed Green Party members, amounted to a de facto poll tax and thus refused to ask for a recount on principle.

Once again, as in 2006, the St Joe County Election board:

1) disenfranchised voters

2) failed to provide citizens with information on the baseline of support for a third party

3) violated federal statutes in failing to count legally cast votes.

What you can do:

1) write a signed email to votegreenmichiana@gmail.com, which we will print and present at the next St Joe County Election Board meeting on Wednesday, March 12 (this will be their first meeting since the November 2007 elections).

2) attend the next St Joe County Election Board meeting on Wednesday, March 12 at 10:00 a.m. in the County Council Conference Chambers (4th floor, corner office, County City Building; ask security guards for directions, if necessary)

3) call the County Clerk’s office at (574) 235-9635

4) send this piece to a friend or post it on your blog to help generate phone calls and emails prior to the Election Board meeting on March 12th.

and tell our elected officials, whose duty it is to uphold our Democracy that you

a) want to go on record with your feelings about this issue

b) demand the St Joe County Election Board goes on record to apologize to the voters who were disenfranchised and to the write-in candidates whose votes were disregarded in direct violation of federal election law in 2007 and 2007 and

c) demand the St Joe County Election Board invest in the mechanisms needed to properly count legitimate write-in votes.

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