Monroe County election board OKs 19 provisional ballots: “I love it when we get to accept it!”

At its Friday meeting, the three-member Monroe County election board voted to accept as valid 19 out of the 32 provisional ballots from the Tuesday, May 3 primary elections.

Provisional ballots are those that are cast by a voter, but set aside due to some question about whether they are valid. Provisional ballots allow a voter to make their choices for candidates, without requiring Election Day poll workers, in circumstances that might be hectic, to make a final decision on validity

Friday’s meeting was set to start at 12:01 p.m.

The odd start time falls between two scheduling goal posts that are set by state law. One prevents the election board from delaying too long the counting of the provisional ballots. They have to be counted “by not later than 3 p.m. ten (10) days following the election.” [IC 3-11.7-5-1]  That deadline was 3 p.m. Friday.

The other scheduling goal post prevents the election board from starting too soon. Voters who chose to cast a provisional ballot, because they could not produce a valid identification under Indiana’s voter ID law [IC 3-10-1-7.2], have until noon 10 days after the election to produce the required ID. That was noon Friday. That’s why the start time was at 12:01 p.m.

Of the 19 provisional ballots that were approved on Friday, three were cases where a voter did not produce a valid ID on Election Day, but did produce one to election division staff sometime after that.

The provisional ballots get considered by the election board one by one, after the seal is broken on the bag that was turned in by each precinct on Election Day.

On Friday, after rejecting five provisional ballots—because the voter was not registered at all, or was not registered at the precinct where they tried to vote—the board came to the first one they could approve. The voter did not have a valid ID on Election Day, but was able to produce one within 10 days after the polls closed.

Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne said, “I love it when we get to accept it!”

Browne, a Democrat, is a member of the three-member election board because the county clerk is defined as a member under state law. The other two election board members are appointed by political party chairs. Shruti Rana serves as the Democrat Party’s appointee and Donovan Garletts serves as the Republican Party appointee. Former election board member Hal Turner filled in on Friday as the proxy for Garletts.

The other 16 ballots approved by the election board on Friday were cases of mailed-in early ballots that had an incorrect signature.

Most of the 16 involved cases of spouses inadvertently signing each other’s ballots. In the past, such cases were handled by the election division staff as they arose. Staff would contact the person and they’d rectify the situation before election day. State law now requires that they be treated as provisional ballots. All but one of the ballots in that category were “cured” in time for the election board to consider.

The total votes for candidates will now be updated, as well as for the overall voting totals.

At the start of Friday’s meeting, Browne announced the breakdown for the 13,742 votes cast: absentees (including travel board, overseas, and in-person early voters) numbered 4,661. On Election Day 9,081 voted, Browne said. The 13,742 voters made for a turnout of 13.38 percent, based on 102,699 registered voters, Browne said.

Next week, a representative from Hart InterCivic, which manufactured the county’s voting equipment, will be updating the 116 pieces of equipment with changes that were recently approved by Voting the System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP)

At their meeting on Wednesday this week the county’s board of commissioners approved the $6,664 cost involved with the update.

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