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October 18, 2012

Glitch tied to ID law

Absentee ballot forms rejected because of errors

EBENSBURG — When Glendora Vizzini sought an absentee ballot prior to the upcoming November election, her efforts were thwarted because of problems linked to the state’s voter ID law, which has been temporarily blocked, but only in part.

While voters will not be required to provide photo identification at the polls in the fall general election, a part of the law requiring a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number on an application for an absentee ballot has remained intact.

And it is likely due to human error some of the applications are being kicked back from the state because the numbers in the computers are not matching those provided by the voters.

The efforts of the elderly Vizzini were rejected because the last four Social Security digits she provided on her ballot application did not match information the state had.

When her son, Charlie Vizzini, whose late father was an advocate for military veterans and a host of other issues, learned his mother’s ballot application was rejected, he stepped in, went to the county election office and provided the correct numbers.

“She was livid. My mother has voted for 65 years,” he said. “She got a ballot to vote, but I had to go to the election office.”

The mix-up involving his mother, who lives in a personal-care home, was resolved, but the case has generated concern with Vizzini and county leaders over potential disenfranchisement of voters.

“Maybe there are other elderly people out there who won’t know what to do,” Vizzini said.

Problems with incorrect numbers on the absentee ballots have recently surfaced, said Cambria County Elections Director Shirley Crowl, but her office is doing all it can to contact the voters and get the correct information.

“We do have some coming in and their numbers are not matching,” said Crowl. “We want to make sure they all vote.”

When a mismatch occurs, Crowl’s office is taking the initiative to contact the voter and get the correct information.

She termed the number of discrepancies as a “few,” adding she has yet to see any ballot application problems that have not been easy to remedy.

On a small scale, similar problems are being reported in other areas of the state, said Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State, the agency that oversees elections and voter registration.

But as in Cambria County, the correct numbers are provided and the absentee ballots issued.

“It can be as simple as someone hitting the wrong number,” Ruman said Thursday. “It’s human error.”

The process of getting the numbers into the state’s election database involves an estimated 8.5 million registered voters and mistakes are bound to occur, he said.

Ruman estimated the problem to be minimal in light of the volume of voters in the state.

“I’ve heard from a couple other counties that this is happening,” he said.

Cambria County is handling the problem correctly, he said.

“If he (Vizzini) hadn’t gone in there, the county would have called them,” Ruman said. “The county will follow up, I’m confident.”

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