By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer
The 80 Jacksonville residents who mistakenly received absentee ballots without all four aldermanic races have been sent supplemental ballots, according to Melinda Allen, Pulaski County election director.
The error occurred when Allen and the commission treated the election of Jacksonville aldermen by ward, while in fact, all such elections in the city have been at large since 2002, she said.
All registered Jacksonville voters can vote in each aldermanic race.
The problem came to light Sept. 22 when a resident called Jacksonville City Hall to report that her ballot didn’t have any alderman races.
If you lived in Ward 5, you received the Ward 5 race, but you should have received ballots with opportunities to vote for either Alderman Kenny Elliott or Glen Keaton in Ward 1; Alderman Reedie Ray or David R. Horn in Ward 3, and Mike Traylor or Mary Twitty in Ward 4, in addition to Avis Twitty or Aaron Robinson in Ward 5.
“We had to generate a new ballot,” Allen said. “We’re still receiving requests.”
She said it was “really a good thing,” the early discovery of the problem.
Allen and the election commission are responsible for creating 254 different ballots.
The Leader be-came aware of the ballot problem from an anonymous e-mail, which charged that under normal circumstances the mistake would be acknowledged.
“All involved have been warned not to talk about it because (County/Circuit Clerk Pat) O’Brien’s candidacy involves a false claim about administering 37 elections without a problem,” the e-mail said.
Both O’Brien and Allen denied any sort of coverup.
“This was our problem and we’ve corrected it,” Allen said. “The (clerk’s) voter-registration office doesn’t have control of the ballots (design),” she said.
“This is a ridiculous accusation,” O’Brien said. “I’m an open book.”
And with the school board elections completed, O’Brien said that’s 38 elections where “We’ve gotten the job done at the highest level. That doesn’t mean there weren’t mistakes made but not any…big mistakes.”
O’Brien said the election commission is responsible for the design of the ballots and having them printed.
“They deliver all styles to us,” he said. The absentee ballots are locked in a secure room, and when a voter asks for an absentee ballot, they are given the one that corresponds to the precinct they live in.
They vote, stick their ballot in the envelope and send it back to the clerk’s office where it is stored in a locked container until election day, when it is transferred to the county election commission.
“The most important thing to remember is that there is always checks and balances,” O’Brien said. “We work hand-in-hand with the election commissioner.”