Shelton has to reprint all election ballots due to errors

The city of Shelton had to reprint all 19,300 ballots for this year’s election due to two wording errors.

The reprinting, plus re-mailing of some early absentee ballots and related computer reprogramming for the machines that tabulate the ballots, will cost the city at least $7,000.

One mistake involved the order on the municipal ballot. The first ballots printed listed the city treasurer’s race immediately after the mayoral contest and before the Board of Aldermen.

But the Board of Aldermen candidates are supposed to be listed in the second position, after the mayor, and before the treasurer’s position.

The second mistake involved the race for a four-year term for Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). Four candidates (two Republicans and two Democrats) are listed and voters were advised to “Vote for Any Two,” but voters were supposed to be told to “Vote for Any Three.” The wording was changed to “Vote for Any Three” on the second printing.

The races for P&Z are complicated this year because the city is phasing in four-year terms for the zoning board, so there are contests for both four-year and two-year slots. This means races in the future will be staggered, so not all P&Z members will run in the same election.

This year’s ballot also includes a race for P&Z alternate.

There was also an issue with how the name of Board of Education candidate Win Oppel appeared on the original ballot, when it was listed as “Win W. Oppel III.” That was changed to “Win Oppel” when ballots were reprinted, although it’s uncertain if that change had to be made since “Win W. Oppel III” is factually correct.

‘I’m very sorry we had this happen’

Shelton City/Town Clerk Margaret R. Domorod, whose office oversees the wording and printing of the ballots, said the person who handled election ballots in the past in her office retired since the last election and that led to the problems.

Domorod said she had worked from a template provided by the printer when creating this year’s ballot. “I’m very sorry we had this happen,” she said.

Domorod said once the two problems on the ballot were brought to her attention, the mistakes were corrected and the revised ballots were printed quickly.

“We were able to get the new ballots done quickly, so that went smoothly,” she said.

Ballots cost 20 cents to 40 cents each

There are two kinds of ballots — regular (used at polling places on Election Day) and absentee.

While what is printed on the ballots is the same, the regular ballots are on white paper and absentee ballots are on thicker yellow paper and are pre-folded so they can be mailed to voters who request to vote by absentee.

The ballots are not cheap, as municipalities have found since switching over to the optical scanner voting machines from the old lever machines used in the past.

Shelton has generally paid from 20 cents to 40 cents each, with the absentee ballots costing more due to the thicker paper and pre-folding. This year’s Shelton ballots are two-sided due to the number of candidates, adding to the cost. It appears the regular ballots cost 35 cents each to print this year.

City needs 19,300 ballots this year

The city needed to have 18,000 regular ballots and 1,300 absentee ballots for the Nov. 5 election.

The quantity the city must order is determined by state law, based on voter registration and past turnout, as a way to make sure a town or city doesn’t run out of ballots (this is what happened during the 2010 election in Bridgeport, causing complications in the close race for governor).

As of last week, Shelton had 23,812 registered voters. Turnout in a mayoral election year in Shelton generally is 40% to 50% so perhaps 10,000 people will cast ballots.

New absentee ballots sent out

Because some absentee ballots were mailed out before the errors were caught, new absentee ballots had to be sent to these voters with a letter explaining the situation.

The letter, approved by the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s Office, explains the two errors on the ballot and tells people they can fill out and submit the new ballot or instead have their original ballot counted.

The Shelton City/Town Clerk’s Office will replace any previously received incorrect absentee ballots with the new ones when they are received.

“Fortunately, we hadn’t distributed that many,” Domorod said. “Maybe 50 or 60 had gone out, and it appears few of the old ballots have come in.”

Other officials are understanding

Other city officials spoke highly of Domorod, saying it was an unfortunate error that had been caught in time to prevent too many complications with the election.

“All the people in that office do a fantastic job. They have a lot on their plate,” said Democratic Registrar of Voters Jack Finn, who also is an alderman.

Finn said there are two full-time workers and three part-time workers in the City/Town’s Office, and they must contend with a high volume of material.

Anthony Simonetti, Republican Town Committee chairman and an alderman, said, “As soon as it was brought to the attention of the City/Town Clerk’s Office, they immediately made the change. They were very attentive to our problem. The city/town clerk does an excellent job.”

Simonetti said the situation was unusual. “This is the first time this has happened,” he said. “We were shocked.”

‘Did move quickly’

Democrat Jimmy Tickey is one of the candidate’s for the P&Z four-year term, and he had noticed the error and then met with the city/town clerk to discuss the situation.

“The city clerk did move quickly and the problem was fixed,” Tickey said. “I’m pleased they have revised the ballot because no one should have their right to vote restricted.”

For the four-year P&Z term, the listed candidates are: Republicans Ruth M. Parkins and Anthony S. Pogoda, and Democrats Nancy E. Dickal and Jimmy Tickey.

People can vote for any three candidates, and the top three vote-getters will be elected.