Election officials: 17 voted in wrong district

pramati@macon.comAugust 30, 2013 

Bibb County election officials said Friday that 17 voters from District 3 cast votes in District 2 during early voting for the Sept. 17 election to decide the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government.

Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said that of the 788 voters who were supposed to have been listed in District 3, 17 of them cast ballots before Thursday’s discovery that those names were assigned incorrectly to District 2.

In addition, 20 absentee ballots among the 788 were mailed out with the wrong names on the ballot, but Watson said officials are sending out replacement ballots to those people.

Watson said it was a regrettable mistake, but one that occasionally happens when redistricting is involved.

“I hate it,” she said, adding that she has since heard from some of the 17 voters after news broke Thursday. “They’re angry and concerned, and they have every right to be. Because of what happened, their vote won’t count for the candidate in their district.”

Watson said the 788 voters were incorrectly entered into a new voting system the state has introduced. Bibb County is the first county in Georgia to use the new software, and there have been glitches.

Because of the new map, as well as changes such as new subdivisions opening in Bibb County, Watson said it’s nearly impossible to check to make certain everyone is voting in the right district. She urges voters with questions about their districts to check with her staff before casting a ballot.

Virgil Adams, Bibb County’s attorney, said Friday he has been researching the issue, but he said those votes will likely be counted since there’s no way to go into the system and remove the incorrect votes. And voters can’t vote twice, even if the first votes were cast in the wrong district.

The District 2 race features Macon City Councilmen Henry Ficklin and Larry Schlesinger, as well as Paul Bronson. Macon Councilwoman Elaine Lucas and former Bibb County Board of Education member Terry Tripp are the candidates vying for District 3.

Adams said the 17 votes could come into play if either the District 2 or 3 race is decided by that amount.

Residents concerned about their ballots can call the elections office at 478-621-6622 or ask officials at the office to double check their district.

The first week of early voting drew 3,169 voters, including 649 on Friday.

Watson said her staff has had to deal with other glitches over the past couple of weeks. Last week, the staff discovered that wrong voter cards were mailed to residents of the Magnolia Manor senior living residence that said residents there were in District 5. In fact, they are in District 9.

However, Watson said the residents were correctly listed in the computer system and the mistake was caught last week, before early voting began. The residents are getting correct voter cards.

On Thursday, the newly installed phone system at the elections office went down for most of the day and part of Friday morning. Watson said the county was working to fix the problem.

Watson said she’s worried that some voters might have skipped voting in some commission races because the ballot is so small. The mayoral candidates are listed on one side of the page, while commission candidates are on the other side. Watson urged voters to double check to make certain both sides of the screen were filled out before clicking “next.”

With the Board of Elections closed Monday because of Labor Day, early voting will continue Tuesday from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at the elections office, 2445 Pio Nono Ave. There also will be a special Saturday early voting day Sept. 7 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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