Larger Early Voter Turnout Sullied By West Lafayette Ballot Snafu

Nov 2, 2015

Tippecanoe County officials are contacting some West Lafayette voters who cast their ballots early, after a computer error gave them the wrong ballot.

Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey says 94 voters in Wabash Township, which contains West Lafayette, received ballots containing the wrong city council race, thanks to a software error in the computer voting system the county employs. Coffey says the error was pinpointed Sunday after multiple people kept insisting their ballot was incorrect, even though the registration indicated they were in the right district.

“After three or four of those calls, I decided to go out and watch what was happening,” she says. “That’s when I discovered that for certain splits within Wabash, the voters’ file was directing it through the program behind the scenes to give them the wrong ballot.”

Election workers were able to override the system and have since been using the correct ballots.

Coffey says her department has the voters’ information and is working to contact them and tell them to re-cast their votes. If they can’t get hold of the voters by next Thursday, Coffey says the county will eliminate that race from those ballots and count all the other tallies in the affected races.

She says most of the problematic votes originate from splits within City Council Districts 5 and 6.

Since many in Wabash township didn’t come out as early to vote as voters in Lafayette, the error didn’t affect too many people.

Early voting numbers have more than doubled in Tippecanoe County since the last municipal elections in 2011, the clerk’s office says.

As of November 2, almost 2,700 absentee ballots have been cast, compared with just more than a thousand in the 2011 municipal elections.

Coffey says she hopes the error doesn’t discourage what she sees as a positive trend in West Lafayette’s civic involvement.

“I’m always worried about that,” she says. “Which is why we really do try, we’re not hiding anything, we’re not saying ‘Everything’s fine, nothing to see here!’”

The department’s first priority is contacting voters. Then, they’ll work on figuring out what exactly went wrong with the computer system.

Early voting closed at noon Monday.