The Lake County Board of Elections is giving absentee voters in two Gary precincts the option to submit a new ballot after a printing error partially obscured a candidate’s name on the original ballots.
Forms to request a new ballot were sent over the weekend to absentee voters in G4-5 and G4-16 in response to a complaint by Nathaniel "Nate" Williams, who is running for Gary’s Fourth District council seat.
Reports of ballot irregularities first surfaced Thursday, when several of Williams’ supporters told him their absentee ballots appeared to have a line crossing through his name. One supporter from G4-5 called Williams to ask if he was still in the race, saying the line made it look as though he had dropped out or been removed from the ballot, according to Michele Williams, the candidate’s wife.
At the time, the Williamses were concerned that absentee voters throughout the Fourth District had been similarly confused by the error.
“I don’t know the magnitude of how many precincts (were affected),” Nate Williams told The Times. “I’m just concerned that this happened to more than one voter.”
The Williams campaign filed a complaint with the elections board on Thursday afternoon, asking for a “full investigation” into the scope of the problem. According to the complaint, an elections board staffer told a Williams campaign worker that 225 absentee ballots from Gary’s Fourth District had been mailed in as of Thursday.
“With this substantial number of ballots in the district race, we determined this as a major blow to our campaign,” Nate Williams wrote in his complaint. “There is no telling how many voters were interested in voting for me as a candidate, yet, assumed that I may have been ineligible and had withdrawn from the race.”
In response to Williams’ complaint, elections board staffers conducted a review of absentee ballots that had been sent to Fourth District voters, according to board chair Michelle Fajman. The review confirmed that ballots sent to G4-5 voters had a line running through Williams’ name, while those in G4-16 has a line underneath it.
The elections office mailed an ABS-5 form, which is used to request a replacement ballot, to 81 absentee voters in G4-5 and 34 voters in G4-16. The mailing asks voters to submit the form if they feel their preferred candidate’s name was obscured by markings on the original ballot.
“A number of individuals have called about it,” Fajman said, noting that most callers have said they don’t feel the need to submit a new ballot. “Voters are getting their notices, which is a good sign.”
Although the deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail was 11:59 p.m. Monday, voters can use the ABS-5 form to request a replacement ballot at any time before the primary election.
Voters who receive a new ballot must mail them to the elections office by noon on election day.