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Mail Delay Leads to Multiple Ballot Mishap for Evansville Voter

He got his first ballot at the end of August but after a mismark, getting a new ballot turned into nearly two months of back and forth with the Vanderburgh County Elections Office and the U.S. Postal Service.

Posted: Oct 22, 2020 11:36 PM
Updated: Oct 23, 2020 1:24 PM

The 2020 Presidential Election is one of the most anticipated of our lifetime. It's not only shrouded in pandemic fears but also drawing out a record number of voters.

Evansville voter Sean O'Daniel is one of more than a million Hoosiers voting by mail this year, in large part, he said, due to concerns over the safety of in-person voting.

He got his first ballot in the mail from the Vanderburgh County Elections Office at the end of August. After receiving his ballot he started to fill it out, but halfway through he realized he made a mistake.

"So I called the election board office and they said yes, we know what to do with that, you need to bring it in, you have to surrender it to us," O'Daniel said.

The clerk's office told him they would send out a new one and all he had to do was destroy the original ballot once he received it, he said.

But when he still hadn't received the replacement ballot after a week, and the post office didn't know where it was, he went back to the elections office requesting another one.

"I said well let's try three's a charm," he said.

It turns out the third time did the trick.

The next day he got it, but in his mailbox he also found the original replacement.

He received both ballots at the same time.

It got lost in the mail, he said, and it all came down to one digit.

"I didn't correct it on the sheet; That's what I needed to do," O'Daniel said. "I should have corrected that zip code."

But human error is bound to happen at one point or another so the question was brought to the county clerk: What happens when your request gets doubled?

"We only allow one vote to count per voter. That's what the system tracks," Vanderburgh County Clerk Carla Hayden said. "Which ones have been sent, which ones came back."

She said it's not uncommon to get multiple requests, and that if this happens, there's no need to worry.

"We would show that the ballot had been canceled that was initially sent and then it would have been overridden by the second one," she said.

For extra piece of mind, the clerk's office takes that check one step further.

"We would also contact the voter if at all possible just to ensure that that is correct," Hayden said. "That the one we received is not the one we should be counting."

Now, with his ballot error settled and after weeks of back and forth, O'Daniel will finally get to cast his vote.

Despite the mishap, he said he still prefers mail-in voting.

"I'll take this option before I come into the groups," he said. "Until this virus has a vaccine."

The county clerk said ballot mismarks happen all the time, so to try and avoid them altogether, she suggests taking your ballot and filling it out in a quiet space away from others.

She said one of the best pieces of advice is to not only take your time reading and filling out the ballot, but to go through your choices first with pencil, then go back over with pen.

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