SIDNEY – In the process of auditing the 2020 general election results, the Shelby County Board of Elections discovered one ballot was counted twice – an error that was corrected Monday.
In preparing for Monday’s audit, Director Pamela Kerrigan said, it was discovered that a federal write-in absentee ballot from a military member was inadvertently counted twice. The correction, which was made in the Salem West precinct, didn’t affect any outcomes in the election.
“It looks like a simple breakdown in human error,” Chairman Jim Kerg said. “There was no indication of any impropriety.”
Because the ballot was a federal write-in absentee ballot, it had to be remade in order to be counted by the tabulation machine, Kerrigan said. The original ballot wasn’t marked as counted and subsequently was remade and counted a second time a couple of days later while finalizing results, she said.
After consulting with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, the board decided to amend the vote certification it completed last week to remove the duplicate ballot. The board unanimously voted to amend the certification.
Board member Merrill Asher said the board is contacting Election Systems & Software, the company that manufactures the tabulation machine, to try to understand how the ballot was accepted twice.
An audit of Sidney 4-C, Green Township and Salem West precincts was completed Monday. A member of both the Republican and Democratic parties completed a hand recount of the presidential race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, the state Supreme Court election between Sharon L. Kennedy and John P. O’Donnell, and the state Senate election between Democrat Ken Poling and Republican Matt Huffman.
Upon completion, the hand count matched summary results for each precinct, Kerrigan said.
Last week, the board had said it would audit the Supreme Court race between Judi French and Jennifer Brunner and the Shelby County commissioner race in which Tony Bornhorst was unopposed along with the presidential election. However, the races to be audited were changed prior to Monday’s meeting.
In other news, the Board of Elections has spent all of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allotment.
The board still has approximately $40,000 in Help America Vote Act grant funds and approximately $17,000 in Center for Tech and Civic Life grant funds.
Board member Jim Thompson and Kerrigan are researching ways to spend the HAVA grant funds to address Americans with Disabilities Act concerns and security concerns. They are looking into addressing the back door and its entrance ramp, installing an electric door opener for the front door and purchasing an emergency generator. They will have a report on recommendations at the board’s Dec. 21 meeting.
The board approved $1,500 in hazard pay for each of its three full-time employees – Kerrigan, Deputy Director Collin Claywell and Clerk Trina Riethman – using money from the CTCL grant. The hazard pay doesn’t include any money from taxpayer funds and is in line with actions taken by other local boards of elections.
“In the 14 counties I have, most, so far, have approved hazard pay for full-time personnel that had to work above and beyond throughout the entire general election,” said Kenneth Henning, regional liaison for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. “The ranges all varied from $500 to a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the board, and how many hours they felt staff put in. So $1,500 was right in the middle and comparable to what other counties have done.”
Claywell will complete his initial six-month probationary period on Dec. 31. The board will discuss his status during its Dec. 21 meeting and anticipates increasing his pay with the completion of his probationary period.
Kerg said he’s working on the board’s 2021 budget. He anticipates having a draft ready on Dec. 8 and expects the board to vote on the budget at its Dec. 21 meeting.
The board voted Monday to approve bills that were filed for audit. It also had an executive session but didn’t take any action.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 21.
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