Ballot shortage extends hours in Sandusky County

SANDUSKY It was an election night nightmare. As a thundering ice storm ripped through the area, a ballot shortage in S
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



It was an election night nightmare.

As a thundering ice storm ripped through the area, a ballot shortage in Sandusky County left many Democratic voters out in the cold.

"It started because of a machine malfunction ... then the elements were kind of stacked against them," said Brad Corso, editorial manager for the Secretary of State's office.

Many polling locations in the county ran out of Democratic Party ballots because the ballot-on-demand printer broke at the Sandusky County Board of Elections, said director Lisa Hartley. An estimated 400 people were turned away from the polls because of the ballot shortage that began as early as 3:45 p.m.

Some voters said they were told they could vote Republican or they couldn't vote.

John Miller, 48, went to the Townsend Township Fire Department after work to cast his vote. He was shocked when the poll workers told him they were out of Democratic ballots.

He said poll workers told him not to worry because he "can vote next time."

Miller said he and his wife asked if they could vote at another polling location, but poll workers told them they couldn't.

A ballot shortage such as the one in Sandusky County is unusual, Corso said.

As to whether the shortage was caused by an unusually high number of independent or Republican voters, Corso said that won't be clear until the official results are in Wednesday.

Because of the ballot shortage, polls in Sandusky County remained open until 9 p.m. instead of the scheduled 7:30 p.m. closing time.

Twenty-one precincts in Cuyahoga County also remained open until 9 p.m. because of a lawsuit filed by the Obama campaign.

"By extending the two locations, hopefully the (election) outcome isn't affected," Corso said.

Vincent Jones, 41, of Vickery, said he's the reason Clinton and Obama will be sitting on their couches for an extra hour and a half waiting for the Ohio election results.

When Jones and his daughter Ashley, 18, were told there were no more Democratic ballots available at the Townsend Township Fire Department polling site, they opened their phone book and got to work.

"That made all the difference in the world," Vincent Jones said.

An assistant to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner told Jones his persistence kept the polls open for voters turned away earlier in the day, he said.

"It definitely showed me that one person can make a difference," Jones said.

Corso said the secretary's office is grateful for people who called the office to report problems.

Some people waited in their cars for more ballots to arrive, but as the weather worsened many decided to just go home.

No other Ohio counties could report results until all the polls were closed.

That was the least of their worries as the ice storm continued through much of the area.

The slick roads were slowing down the delivery of ballots to the board of elections.

The official results from Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island could not be reported until this morning because weather kept the ballots on the islands. Unofficial results could be phoned into the Ottawa and Erie counties' boards of elections.

There wasn't a shortage of Democratic ballots in Huron County, but that didn't mean every voter who wanted one got one.

Terry Sutphen, 50, of Sherman Township said when he asked for a Democratic ballot he was given a party affiliation challenge form.

"I thought I could vote for anybody I wanted to," Sutphen said.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, voters who wish to vote for a different party than they have in the past can be required to complete and sign a challenge form.

That rule was not universally applied, however, as voters in Erie County said they were able to chose a different party ballot than they had in the past with no questions asked.

"This is America," Sutphen said. "You should be able to walk in and vote for whoever you think the best candidate is."