Buchanan County Clerk apologizing for absentee ballot error

"Yes, we had a small mishap. I apologize for that, but that’s it. It got caught early and it’s done,” said Baack-Garvey.

Posted: Sep 25, 2020 3:03 PM
Updated: Sep 25, 2020 7:20 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Nearly 2,000 Buchanan County residents received invalid absentee ballots this week.

Buchanan County being one of two counties in the state to send out a wrongly worded proposal to Amendment 3. 

“It just slipped through the cracks. It’s an honest mistake. It happens and unfortunately, it happened here in Buchanan,” said Mary Baack-Garvey, Buchanan County Clerk. 

On Tuesday, 1,700 absentee ballots were sent out to registered voters in Buchanan County, printed with incorrect, outdated language for Amendment No. 3. Language, Buchanan County voters said grossly differs from what it should be.

“To mislead the voters and make them think they were voting for something they were voting for something really good. Without having anything on the ballot that said, ‘hey, this replacing just what you voted for in 2018.’ Why would anyone do anything about it?” said Jane Frick, Co-facilitator of Persisterhood. 

The updated language for Amendment No. 3 asks voters if they wish to change the redistricting process passed back in 2018 from a non-partisan figure, drawing district lines, to a Governor-appointed bipartisan commisson(s). 

Baack-Garvey apologizing for the ballot error. 

“I’m not used to proofing state issues. That’s usually done by the vendors, by the state and it was confusing because the language on Amendment 3 bounced back and forth on how it was going to be worded, " said Baack-Garvey, "We have gone above and beyond to make sure everything is ready for election day. Yes, we had a small mishap. I apologize for that, but that’s it. It got caught early and it’s done.”

Buchanan County is sending a new ballot to each absentee voter, accompanied with a letter explaining the language change. 

Baack-Garvey said the mistake will cost the county approximately $3,000.

“I know that the local election authority here is working to make sure that is taken care of and I have full faith in her ability to do that,” said Jay Ashcroft, Missouri Secretary of State. 

For county residents voicing their concerns over ballots being counted twice, Baack-Garvey said their office's system won't let that happen. 

“Each voter has their special number and letter coded to their ballot. So, when John Smith’s ballot, even if it’s the original ballot comes in, we’re gonna know it’s the original ballot because it doesn’t have the second coding letter. On the new ballot, John Smith will have 101-AA; that means second ballot. It's a very simple process, we have it down. It shouldn’t be confusing at all. Nobody’s going to vote twice. It’s a one and done vote,” said Baack-Garvey. 

Baack-Garvey said this mishap shouldn't place doubt in voters minds on the security of this election. 

“Let’s move past this. It’s over. They’re gonna get the correct ballot. Everybody’s gonna get the correct ballot. Let’s move on and have a great election day on the 3rd,” said Baack-Garvey. 

The county clerk's office is advising those 1,700 absentee voters to destroy their original ballot while they wait for the new ballot to arrive in the mail. 

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