An unusually high number of questionable absentee ballots were placed before the Ward County Canvassing Board Tuesday. The board was meeting for the purpose of certifying final results for the November election.
County Auditor Devra Smestad presented the Canvassing Board the task of determining the validity of 51 ballots believed to contain questionable signatures, 41 ballots which did not have the required signatures on both ballot applications and voter affidavits, nine which had the affidavits improperly inserted in absentee ballot security sleeves and 27 ballots that arrived at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot postmarked after Election Day.
"We had only two in the primary for the Canvassing Board," said Smestad. "Sometimes we get 15 or so, so this is a considerable amount as to what I'm used to seeing. There's more interest. With almost double our absentees you are going to have a few issues."
Members of the Ward County Canvassing Board examine absentee ballots to determine whether or not they meet election standards. The board met Tuesday at the courthouse to certify final results of the recent election.
The eight-member board carefully examined the ballots, dividing them according to similarity and then voting whether to accept or reject them. Of the 51 ballots listed as questionable, 31 were accepted by the board and 20 rejected. A total of 25 ballots were rejected due to failure to sign the affidavit of residency and confirmation of qualified elector. The 27 absentee ballots bearing postmarks after Nov. 6 were also rejected.
Smestad reminded voters that they bear the responsibility to sign and fill out their election forms as correctly as possible. Doing so will help insure their votes are counted.
"Absolutely," said Smestad. "They need to make sure they have the correct ballot, sign the application and affidavit and put their own ballot into their own signed affidavit form. Don't sign for somebody else. I think that's where a lot of our issues came up."
One race close enough to be affected by Tuesday's action of the Canvassing Board was for the third and final open seat on the Ward County Commission. In that race Shelly Weppler led Jim Lee by 74 votes, 11,130 to 11,056. The official tally following action taken by the Canvassing Board was Weppler 11,172 and Lee 11,091, a difference of 81 votes.
An automatic recount would have been triggered if the difference was 75 votes or less. Because the difference remains less than 2 percent of the vote, Lee has the option of demanding a recount. However, the cost of the recount must be paid for by Lee or his campaign. Lee told The Minot Daily News he will make a final decision regarding a recount once the cost has been determined.