Voter complaints probed

Published 10:16 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Six to eight Dallas County voters went to polls Tuesday to vote but were initially denied because an absentee ballot had been cast in each of their names.

These people were given provisional ballots and allowed to vote. A provisional ballot is used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is questioned.

The ballots are the same as normal ballots, but aren’t officially counted until the Board of Registrars and election commissioner can verify that person’s eligibility.

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The anomalies were reported to Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who acknowledged the reports Tuesday. At the time, Chapman issued a statement saying she will have “zero tolerance” for voter fraud.

Repeated calls by The Selma Times-Journal to the Elections Division in Chapman’s office Wednesday were not returned.

However, Probate Judge Kim Ballard said mishaps occur, usually when a person forgets they applied for an absentee ballot or someone is on record as having received an absentee ballot when, in fact, insufficient mailing addresses prevented the ballot from arriving.

“There have been very few cases that we can point to as intentional fraud, but when you have campaign workers out there being paid to go collect absentee ballots, and in some cases paid by the number they collect, the avenue for intentional fraud is out there,” Ballard said. “I wish there was some way we could totally put a stop to that, but there’s not.”

Ballard said issues are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“My goal, as election manager for the county, is to make sure that every legitimate vote gets counted and no illegitimate votes get counted,” he said. “I think we do an excellent job of that between the poll workers, the board of registrars, myself and my staff. We are very, very intense about doing that.”

Jimmy Ellison, an employee in the Dallas County Circuit Clerk’s Office, worked to correct the absentee voting issue election day.

“The general operation and everything is OK now,” Ellison said. “We had some complaints that we are looking into, but the most frequent complaint is because of the mail or because they didn’t give us the right address.”

Concerns were either remedied at the polling locations or called into Ballard’s office, where staff members solved the issues.

Voters may cast absentee ballots if they will be outside the county on the day of the election, is ill or have a physical disability that prevents a trip to the polling location, is a registered Alabama voter living outside the country for the military or college, is an appointed election officer or poll watcher or works a required shift of 10 hours or more that coincides with polling hours.