History of Vote Count Failures in St Joe County

In What Happened to My Vote?, I exposed the St Joseph County of Indiana Election Board’s failure to count legitimate write-in votes for a state Green Party candidate in the 2006 election. Following this debacle, the St Joe Valley Green Party attended several Election Board meetings, urging County Clerk Rita Glenn and other Election Board officials to apologize for the 2006 vote-count failure. The Greens also asked the Board to take steps to ensure write-in votes were counted in the 2007 election as the Green Party intended to run at least 3 write-in candidates for local offices.

The St Joseph County Election Board refused to apologize for their failure to count a single write-in vote in the 2006 election, even though the scanners indicated close to a thousand “write-in” votes had been cast for various write-in candidates on the state ballot. Apparently apologizing would have admitted failure on their part. Failure to count legitimately cast votes is a Class D felony.

St Joe County Election Board’s “Solution” for Write-in Votes

For the 2007 election, the Election Board’s “solution” was to have citizens casting write-in votes put their ballots into a separate bin. At the end of Election Day, ballots in the bin were to be counted by hand and then sent through the scanners to tally the voter’s other choices. This separate treatment of ballots with write-in votes meant voters casting write-in votes were easily identified by where they placed their ballot. In one precinct, there was only one write-in candidate; voters casting a vote for this individual lost their privacy on this vote when they put their ballot into the separate bin.

“Solution” Violates Privacy/Voters Still Disenfranchised

On Election Day, poll observers and citizens reported many problems including inconsistent directions from poll workers; many voters were directed to put ballots with write-in votes into the scanners. This nullified any write-in votes because the poll workers were not going to open the scanning machines to search for ballots with write-in votes. Election officials were only going to count write-in votes that were placed in the separate bin. Asking the Election Board to open the machines for a full count after the election would have cost the Green Party several thousand dollars; this amounted to a de facto poll tax, which Party members refused on principle.

Follow-up to 2007 Election

I urged readers to contact the St Joe County Election Board prior to their meeting on Wednesday, March 12 and demand steps be taken to prevent such failures in future elections. I reported the March 12 meeting would be the Election Board’s first following the November 2007 election.  Mysteriously, the Election Board held a meeting in February that Green Party members were unaware of, despite calling the Election Board office every month after the election and being assured that the first meeting of 2008 would not occur until March 12. When asked about this at the March 12th meeting, Green Party members were told the notice for February meeting’s had been posted at the County City Building 10 days prior to the February meeting.

Election Board officials came to the meeting with a prepared statement; they were not going to apologize for failing (once again) to count write-in votes but they did admit there were problems  at the polling places. The Election Board refused to request machine diverters for write-in ballots. However, for the 2008 election all ballots will go through the the scanners and then poll workers will sort through all the ballots afterward to count write-in votes by hand.

Important Issue for 2008 Election

Counting write-in votes will be necessary once again as the Green Party will likely have a write-in candidate for President and may run write-in candidates for local offices. The Green Party Presidential candidate will have to be a write-in candidate because Indiana’s deadline is June 30th for submitting the 30,000+ signatures required of minor party candidates. This deadline is two weeks before the Green Party’s national nominating convention. Once again, Indiana’s repressive ballot access laws limits choices for voters in our so-called Democracy. Hopefully, the St Joe County Election Board will accurately count all the legitimately cast write-in votes this November.