Macon woman: ‘All I want is my vote back’

jkovac@macon.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Betty Addleton, a retired medical assistant, has voted in every Macon election since the late 1950s.

She registered when she was 18, eight years after she and her folks moved to town from Swainsboro.

“Voting is very important in our family,” she said. “I know people have died for my right to vote.”

Her ill mother-in-law used to climb out of her sick bed to go to the polls.

Now 74, Addleton is dismayed to learn the early ballot she cast last month won’t count for the commission candidate she’d hoped to vote for.

Instead, her ballot is a casualty in a bureaucracy-meets-geography glitch over redrawn commission districts.

Word of the glitch, possibly caused by a computer-data-entry oversight, has made news in the run-up to next week’s elections.

Bibb Board of Elections member Steve Allen said Tuesday he was not aware of developments featured in a broadcast report that a state election official in late August advised Bibb voting authorities to begin verifying voters’ addresses about a week before they apparently did.

It came to light last month that more than 700 Bibb voters had been placed in the wrong voting districts, and because of that at least 30 voters, Addleton among them, cast ballots in the wrong races.

“The state generated new maps. They did not generate new voter lists to go along with those maps,” Allen said Tuesday of the mix-up.

“In order to prevent any further mistakes, they are checking as the voters cast their ballots,” he added, noting that the errors were “unfortunate.”

Some voters have reported that the verification has increased wait times at the polls.

“I believe it will make things slower on election day,” Allen said.

Addleton, meanwhile, is still stewing over her specious ballot.

She lives in northeast Bibb and has for more than half a century since she and her husband, B.L., got married.

Their house is in District 3, just west of Gray Highway, south of the Jones County line -- more than half a mile from the newly drawn boundary that divides Districts 2 and 3.

When the Addletons went to vote Aug. 28, they were informed, incorrectly, that they lived in District 2.

“I told them ... I thought they had it wrong,” Betty Addleton said.

An election clerk shrugged her shoulders, checked a computer and told Addleton, “No, you’re in 2,” and handed her a voter card for District 2.

Addleton thought to herself, “Well, maybe the districts have been changed. Maybe this is right.”

Being the diligent voter she is, Addleton went ahead and cast her vote in a race with candidates whom she knew little about.

“I was not prepared to vote in District 2,” she said, and with good reason. She doesn’t live there.

“I feel like this election was so important for this community,” Addleton said. “We’ve worked for consolidation for so many years, and I really wanted this election to go smoothly.”

She has since called state election officials, but none has returned her calls.

“But I’m just a voter,” Addleton said.

Someone in the Bibb elections office, she said, told her it was a computer goof, the state’s fault.

“My vote has been, I feel, taken away,” Addleton said. “All I want is my vote back. ... I don’t see how they can just say, ‘Too bad. It was our mistake, but too bad -- you’re collateral damage.’ ”

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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