Schoharie County

Ballot “bleed-through” delays voting for some in Middleburgh, Sharon

Peter Donaghy filled in his ballot Tuesday and put it into the voting machine, only to have it rejec

Peter Donaghy filled in his ballot Tuesday and put it into the voting machine, only to have it rejected.

The machine told him he’d voted twice for governor.

He tried again with the same results before realizing his vote for the town’s proposition — situated on the opposite side of the ballot — was bleeding through to the column for governor choices on the front of the ballot.

On his third try, he skipped the proposition altogether, so his vote on whether the Town of Middleburgh should eliminate one of two town justice posts was never counted at all.

During the process, Donaghy went to election inspectors, got a new ballot and tried another writing implement, a situation he said he saw happen to others.

“It seemed like half the people there had to keep coming back,” Donaghy said.

Schoharie County Democratic Election Commissioner Cliff Hay on Wednesday said he’d heard similar reports of “bleed-through” in the town of Sharon, where a proposition — again situated on the reverse of the governor’s column — asked voters to decide on changing the town highway superintendent from an elected to an appointed post.

“We’re not the only ones that had this problem,” Hay said.

Hay said he believes some people pressed harder on the ballots than other people did. In other cases, the pens that were in use were simply bleeding through the paper. And the paper used for ballots wasn’t a thick card stock, rather a regular paper all the counties are using.

Hay said there are other writing utensils available, but they cost $5 or $6 each. “I don’t know too many counties willing to pay $5 or $6 for pens. In Schoharie County, we’d need probably $1,000 [worth of] pens, and the supervisors are hollering about nickels or dimes.”

“There might be a problem, but these are all problems that you really don’t know until you go through these things,” Hay said.

Hay said he’s not positive, but he doesn’t believe the propositions themselves can be repositioned so they don’t line up with the vote on the front of the ballot.

The problem appears not to have blocked too many votes.

In Middleburgh, the unofficial count shows that residents cast 556 votes in favor of eliminating one of the town’s justice posts and 414 against, for a total of 970. In the same election district, there were only 652 votes cast to elect Democrat Gary Wilkins as town justice.

In Sharon, residents cast 231 votes in favor of replacing an elected town superintendent with an appointed highway superintendent but 312 votes were cast in opposition, for a total of 443. The same election district recorded a total of 379 votes to elect Sandra Manko town supervisor, and a total of 529 votes were cast in the Town Council race that went in the favor of Republican candidate Joseph F. Falsarella.

Voters in the town of Moreau had three different propositions Tuesday, all printed on the reverse side of the ballot. Saratoga County Elections Commissioner Roger J. Schiera said he did not hear of any problems with bleed-through. The county consulted pen manufacturers during ballot preparation and decided to go with a ball-point pen, he said.

State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin on Wednesday said he had not heard about marks bleeding through ballots. He said all counties approve their own writing implements and it sounds like the pen itself may be to blame.

Conklin said he did not believe there would be any changes in terms of where the propositions are placed on the ballot itself. He said the state Board of Elections was concerned mostly with completing the count of voting Wednesday, but added that prior to the next election, the board will evaluate any issues that surface.

Categories: Schenectady County

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