Schenectady County

Obama misspelled as ‘Osama’ on Rensselaer County ballots

Hundreds of voters in Rensselaer County were sent absentee ballots in which they could vote for “Bar

Three hundred absentee ballots have been mailed out in Rensselaer County listing the name of the Democratic presidential candidate as Barack “Osama” instead of Barack Obama.

The county Board of Elections issued a statement Friday acknowledging “a typographical error” was made “on only 300 out of more than 4,000 absentee ballots that will be mailed out this month. The Board of Elections acted quickly to correct the typographical error and regrets the error.”

On a keyboard, the letters “s” and “b” are not in proximity so the mistake does not seem to be the most common form of typographical error.

“The error was not deliberate and the Board of Elections is continuing to fairly manage the upcoming general election in a bipartisan and cooperative manner,” the statement said.

Neither of the elections commissioners, Republican Larry Bugbee or Democrat Edward McDonough, was available for comment Friday, and no one at the board could provide further information. The board did not acknowledge that the error involved substituting “Osama” for “Obama.”

Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino issued a statement saying: “It is apparent that the Board of Elections made a serious error in the misspelling of Senator Obama’s name on what I am told are 300 absentee ballots. I will be discussing my concerns regarding this obviously unacceptable error with the leadership of the Rensselaer County Legislature [which] by County Charter is responsible for the oversight of the Board of Elections.”

It’s not the first time that the name of the Democratic senator from Illinois has been confused with that of the world’s most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden. Politicians from Democrat Ted Kennedy to Republican Mitt Romney have made the same slip. But it may be the first time it’s been done on an election ballot.

The mistake occurs in the most prominent position on the ballot, at the top left hand corner of the candidate lists, on the Democratic line. Obama’s name is spelled correctly below, on the Working Families Party line.

Rensselaer County Democratic Chairman Tom Wade, himself a former county elections commissioner, said he was confident it was a mistake due to human error, and not to any ill intent. The board operates in a bipartisan manner, he said, with people from both parties reviewing everything that goes out. “I truly wish it had not happened,” he said. “They don’t know how it happened, either.”

The Board of Elections, Wade said, “is a busy, busy beehive of a place at this time of year.” The board prints its own ballots, he said, and this might be a signal that it would make more sense to put the printing work out to bid.

The Obama campaign’s Capital Region office referred questions to its chairman, Albany Councilman Corey Ellis, who could not be reached for comment.

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