Ballot blunder shakes faith in elections chief

Unaware or unconcerned. There is no other way to accurately characterize Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams mailing out almost 432 incorrect absentee ballots, and then her blase reaction to an entirely avoidable error.

Williams failed to notice that candidates in the District 1 County Commission Republican Primary election were not listed alphabetically. When the error was brought to her attention, she first said state law did not require the names to be listed alphabetically. When she later learned she was wrong, her first reaction was to ask Michael Burmann, the candidate who should have been listed first on the ballot, to sign a waiver saying he would not contest the results of the election.

Burmann declined and insisted that the ballot be reprinted. Burmann made the right decision; some elections are decided by a very few votes and being first on the ballot might give him an advantage. A small-margin win is an even greater possibility in a three-candidate race.

The end result is that it will cost taxpayers about $5,000 to correct the Supervisor of Elections' carelessness. That senseless waste should outrage the public.

If Williams reviewed the absentee ballot before mailing and did not catch the mistake, that is slipshod work. If Williams did not do it herself, that means she left a very important job to an underling who obviously had neither the expertise nor an appreciation for the importance of assuring that the ballot was in accordance with clearly-written state law.

And when confronted with her mistake, Williams should have admitted it immediately and taken full responsibility. Instead, she exhibited unfamiliarity with that particular election law.

Williams has a long record of public service in the elections office, first as an appointed subordinate and now as the elected boss for the past eight years. She has served faithfully and honorably in both roles. But this incident, coupled with a decision she made last month to spend too much on postage, demonstrates a curious lapse in judgment that erodes the credibility of her office and tests the public's patience.

Ballot blunder shakes faith in elections chief 07/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2008 1:58pm]

    

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