Election 2012: Some Md. residents receive duplicate absentee ballots

There’s an old Election Day joke about voting early and often. Some people in our area who applied for absentee ballots could actually do that thanks to the multiple ballots they’ve received in the mail.

On this Election Eve, Del Fitchett is worried about whether his absentee vote will count.

“I found in our mail two absentee ballots… I was really puzzled because I already put our absentee ballots in the mail,” he says.

Fitchett, a retired economist, says he got the duplicates on October 22, the same day he mailed his and his wife’s absentee ballots.

Fitchett isn’t alone. Maryland elections officials say they deliberately sent out 10,000 duplicate ballots. One voter who contacted ABC7 says he also received two ballots while his wife received none.

The Board of Elections says this was no mistake, but a way to fix two very different problems. The first involves the bar code on their mailing envelopes.

Elections staffers say a bar code error could have caused delays. They also checked the weight of returned absentee envelopes and found they likely contained only one page of the two-page ballot.

“So out of an abundance of caution, we sent a second ballot to voters with a notice saying if you voted on both pages and you’re confident about that, don’t worry about this, just discard it,” says Ross Goldstein, Deputy Administrator with the Maryland Board of Elections.

The state says the bar code system will ensure only one ballot will count, but Fitchett remains skeptical.

“It really creates a lot of uncertainty about the integrity of the process with all these duplicate ballots sloshing about in the system,” says Fitchett.

“We’re certainly apologizing for the inconvenience or the confusion, but it was really out of sense of making sure voters were well served,” says Goldstein.

Elections officials say they’re investigating the two-page mix up. Authorities say unfortunately, if you haven’t received your absentee ballot by this time, you should plan on voting in person.