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Errant ballots mailed out in council race

Hillsboro officials tell voters to wait for new ones

With less than two weeks until the Nov. 4 election, a clerical error has resulted in inaccurate ballots going out to approximately 45,000 voters in the city of Hillsboro.

The mistake appears in the Hillsboro City Council race between Monte Akers and Kyle Allen in Ward 2. Allen and Akers are the only candidates and should have been the only names listed, but a third name — Brenda McCoy — also appears. McCoy had been an early candidate for the spot but officially withdrew from the contest Aug. 28, well before the deadline and with ample time before ballots went to the printer.

According to Philip Bransford, communications officer with the Washington County Administrative Office, the Washington County Elections Office printed and mailed out ballots that erroneously list McCoy’s name alongside those of Allen and Akers.

“The error was discovered after ballots sent last week were received by voters over the last few days,” Bransford said Monday.

Mickie Kawai, election manager for Washington County, said her office heard from the public after the ballots had gone out.

“We got a call on it from someone in Hillsboro who said he thought Brenda had withdrawn,” said Kawai.

To try to remedy the mix-up, voters in the city of Hillsboro will be sent a supplemental ballot next week that removes McCoy’s name and lists only the correct two candidates — Akers and Allen — in the city council contest. Only the Ward 2 city council race will be listed on the supplemental ballots. 

The city’s voters should begin receiving their supplemental ballots, with an explanatory letter included, early next week.

“We are working toward getting the supplemental ballot sent to Hillsboro voters,” Bransford said.

However, county officials pointed out that printing new ballots and mailing them is no simple task.

“I can’t say when voters will get the new ballots,” Kawai said. “We have to figure out how and when can we send out about 45,000 ballots. This is not stock we have on hand, especially the envelopes. The printer can get the ballots done in a couple days, but the envelopes have to be cut and glued and dried. We also have to print (mailing) labels and insert the packet. There are a few more steps.”

On Tuesday, Bransford said the county's cost to print and send out the supplemental ballots has not yet been finalized.

"We do not yet have the final cost amount," Bransford said. "Our preliminary estimate would be about 60 cents per ballot, or no more than $30,000."

According to Kawai, the mistake apparently occurred in the county’s elections office and was not the fault of McCoy or of the city of Hillsboro.

“Undoubtedly it’s our error,” Kawai said. “She (McCoy) withdrew right before the deadline. The (Hillsboro) city recorder had a document submitted to them. They emailed it to someone in our office who did not move it forward.”

“We are retracing the steps that led to Ms. McCoy’s name appearing on the ballot despite the county having received her withdrawal form,” added Bransford. “There is no question that Ms. McCoy’s name should not have appeared on the ballot as a candidate for Hillsboro City Council.”

Some voters have already returned their ballots, but election officials will not count any votes cast in the city council race with the ballot error. The forthcoming supplemental ballot is the only tally that will count for that contest.

However, Washington County election officers made clear that all the other races and measures on the ballots will be counted as usual.

“If voters have already sent their ballots, their votes for every other race and measure will still be counted,” Bransford explained.

The other two races for Hillsboro City Council are not affected by the ballot problem. In Ward 1, Darell Lumaco is unopposed; and in Ward 3, Steve Callaway also faces no opponent.

The two candidates in the race where the ballot misprint occurred said they weren’t too concerned about the mix-up.

"This certainly complicates the race, but I trust that Washington County Elections will put into place proper procedures to assure that every Hillsboro citizen's vote will be counted," Akers said. "We intend to verify that this happens."

“This was certainly an unfortunate error, but I understand the need to maintain the integrity of the election and democratic process,” added Allen. “I'm confident Hillsboro voters will complete the supplemental ballots by Nov. 4 and make their choice.”

Ballots must be at an official ballot collection site by Nov. 4 at 8 p.m.

Voters with questions about the supplemental ballot for the Hillsboro City Council contest can contact the Washington County Elections Office at 503-846-5800.

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