PARKERSBURG - The cost of reprinting primary election ballots after an error was found on the Republican primary ballot will cost the state $148,705.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant's office announced this week her office will absorb the expense through her office budget.
The error occurred on the Republican primary ballot, instructing voters to vote for no more than 18 at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention even though 19 were to be elected. The error was detected in time to be corrected before the early voting period began April 25, however some incorrect absentee ballots had already been mailed out and counties incurred some overtime and related expenses in getting the error addressed.
Other operational costs incurred by the counties including overtime, payment for ballot commissioners, and express mail for absentee ballots to absentee military and overseas voters. The Secretary of State's Office will reimburse counties for those costs as well.
The Secretary of State's Office is also expecting a bill from Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) for recoding and reprogramming for about $64,000, according to state elections officials.
"It's our understanding the secretary of state's office will be paying Casto & Harris directly for the ballots because they had been printed but we had not received them at the point when the mistake was found, and the county never received a bill for that. We had mailed out 28 Republican absentee ballots with the incorrect information on them," said Mark Rhodes, deputy clerk.
Rhodes said the cost in Wood County to notify the voters of the mistake and remail corrected absentee ballots was $35.
"We haven't calculated the amount of overtime pay that will be due yet. We always have some overtime due to the election anyway, but this time we ended up having several evenings when the whole crew was here because of the rush to get things done after the mistake was found," he said.
In addition, Wood County incurred $100 to call the ballot commissioners back into emergency session due to the error.
"It could have been a lot worse, the counties with paper ballots are going to have more expenses. As it was it was mostly just an inconvenience because it shortened the amount of time we had to get things done. But it was caught before we started programming the iVotronics. Things went smoothly after it was addressed," Rhodes said.
Tennant said her office will use reclassified funds originally intended to pay additional Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) liabilities to cover the reprinting and reprogramming costs
"The Secretary of State's Office was one of a few agencies in West Virginia that budgeted to pay our OPEB obligations," Tennant said. "It was determined that transfer would not occur and those funds were re-classified. We will use those funds to help pay for the reprinting and reprogramming. We are now working closely with the counties to make sure they let us know about their operational costs."
The error was pointed out by one of the Republican presidential candidates' campaigns, but by that time primary election ballots had been printed and some absentee ballots had already been mailed out.
In a statement released earlier, a spokesman for the state clerks' association, said the discovery of the error "added to the already busy election schedule in county clerks' offices around the state."
Rules for the election of convention delegates are set by the state party. The West Virginia Republican Party determined three delegates are selected by virtue of their party office and without being elected, while the other 28 delegates are elected by popular vote. The 28 elected delegates are divided between congressional districts, three for each district, and state-wide (at-large). The original instructions and programming for the Republican Party primary at-large delegates to the national convention restricted the voter to 18 selections even though 19 are to be elected. No other races were affected.
The clerks noted the original order from the secretary of state's office required an addition to ballot instructions to address the error.
"This separate card or addendum of instructions is not one of the options given to our ballot commissioners and we felt it was important to strictly interpret and adhere to state law in order to maintain the integrity of the ballot and election process. We appreciate that the secretary of state came to an agreement with us and rescinded her original order," said Diana Cromley, Mason County clerk and president of the state clerks' association in an earlier statement.