Marion County Clerk Carol Maggard and her staff scrambled to fix a mistake on ballots for the Nov. 6 election.
About 400 early voters had filled out incomplete ballots because Marion County’s ballots did not include questions about retaining two Eighth Judicial District Judges — Michael F. Powers and Maritza Segarra. It was Powers — not one of the voters — who brought the error to Maggard’s attention on Oct. 24. At first, Powers did not realize he had not been mailed information candidates receive when they appear on a ballot.
Judge retentions offer people the choice of whether to vote yes or no to bring back a judge. Most people who vote overwhelmingly choose yes. Maggard said many people choose not to vote because they do not know the judge.
About 300 people received short paper ballots with judge retentions by Thursday. The clerk’s office was working on the short ballots for walk-in voters, about 100 people, on Thursday. She said those would be delivered on Friday. Maggard had all the ballots reprinted and, with overnight mail, they should have arrived at the Marion County Courthouse on Saturday.
“I’m feeling good about what we have done to correct it,” Maggard said. “At least I can make it right.”
In Maggard’s 27-year career as County Clerk, there had never been a mistake on an election ballot.
“I take full responsibility,” she said.
Maggard was visibly embarrassed about the mistake. Part of that feeling is because of the cost of reprinting ballots. She was not sure how much the printing and mailing would cost because she had yet to receive a bill for the first run of ballots. She said the reprinting cost will come out of the Clerk’s budget.
Although the problem has been corrected, Maggard shuddered at the possible ramifications if no one had seen that the judges had been left off the ballot until after the election. She was not sure what the consequence would have been and she did not want to find out.
The clerk’s office can take solace in one fact. Maggard had to speak with a representative in Secretary of State’s office to modify the ballots. The person told Maggard she was not the only county clerk to call with the same problem.