Write-in ballots offer unique challenges

ALPENA -The election process for the candidates running for a pair of Alpena Municipal Council seats on Tuesday will be slightly different than usual. Typically a voter fills in the oval next to the candidate’s name and they are tallied together after the polls close. That will not be the case after the general election.

In addition to the two candidates listed on the ballot, Michael Nunneley and Shawn Sexton, there are three write-in candidates – Cindy Johnson, Anna Bass and Cal Howard. Alpena County Clerk Bonnie Friedrichs said when a completed ballot is scanned it will be separated into two piles, one that contains no write- in votes and another that has a write-in selected. She said the election workers then have to run the totals and then separate the write- in votes by hand. They also will have to document how many different spellings there were for each write-in candidate.

“They will verify that the number of ballots match the tape and then they will have to list every different variation of the spellings of the names. Then they will seal them and sign them and bring them to my office,” Friedrichs said.

Although the candidates do the best they can to educate the voters on how to fill out the ballot and spell the names properly, there are sure to be some errors on the ballot. Friedrichs said the final total of votes will be determined by the Board of Canvassers in an open meeting.

“The ballots are turned over to the board and it is up to them to award the votes,” Friedrichs said. “When they look at names that may be misspelled they try to look at the intent and if they think the person intended to vote for a specific candidate they award the vote. There are cases though that if the spellings are not close enough to prove intent they can throw out the vote.”

Friedrichs said she doesn’t recall having this many write-in candidates in a general election in an area as large as the city.

“I remember there were some write-ins for smaller elections in some of the smaller townships, but not one that has been campaigned so heavily in a place as large as Alpena,” Friedrichs said. “We have a write-in from time to time, but I don’t remember having three.”

Once the Board of Canvassers releases the final vote count the election will be official. The candidates will have the right to challenge the judgment of the board if they choose.

“The only thing they can do after the board rules is request as recount or take it to the district court,” Friedrichs said. “But usually when the Board of Canvassers is done, the election is over.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com