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State looking into Hall County ballot issue

Voter issued wrong ballot and allowed to vote twice

POSTED: July 27, 2012 11:30 p.m.

State elections officials are investigating a complaint at the Hall County Elections Office, a source with Georgia’s Secretary of State confirmed.

Officials with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division opened the investigation Thursday but have not yet released any information as to its focus or how long it might take.

Hall County spokeswoman Nikki Young on Friday said the investigation is into “a singular incident concerning one Hall County voter.”

Young said the problem appears to have been caused by a “computer irregularity” and did not affect voting Friday.

Hall County Elections Supervisor Charlotte Sosebee said the investigation should not affect voting in Tuesday’s primary. Nor does Sosebee believe it will affect the outcome of Tuesday’s races.

On Friday, Sosebee declined to say much about the investigation.

On Thursday, before she knew of a state inquiry into the office, Sosebee confirmed that at least one voter had voted on the wrong ballot.

That voter, Shanon Lutz, was allowed to vote a second time on the correct ballot, according to Sosebee. Her original vote will also likely be counted.

Lutz is the wife of Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz. The couple lives in commission District 1, where he serves, and should not be allowed to vote in other district races.

But when she went to the Hall County Elections Office to vote early, elections officials gave Shanon Lutz a ballot that allowed her to vote in the District 2 commission race, according to Sosebee.

Friday was the last day of early voting in the July 31 primary.

Sosebee said Thursday that Lutz signed the ballot application of another voter, allowing her to vote in the District 2 race.

Lutz later called her husband and told him about the problem, Sosebee said.

The commissioner would not make an official comment about the incident to The Times and his wife was not immediately available.

But after the mistake was realized, Sosebee said Lutz was allowed to vote a second time.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” Sosebee said. “Who was to blame? There could have been a glitch in the program.”

Though elections officials told Lutz to check to make sure the information on her ballot application was correct, Lutz did not notice that the name and address listed on the ballot application was not hers.

Sosebee said the application belonging to the other voter did happen to bear the same birth date as Lutz, however.

Sosebee said she does not believe the mistake will keep the other voter from participating in Tuesday’s election.

As a result of the mistake, voters now have to initial next to their printed names on a ballot application.

The policy has been in place since Wednesday.

Sosebee said the new procedure will force voters to check to make sure they are signing the right application.

Sosebee also urges voters who believe they have gotten the wrong ballot to alert elections officials before casting the ballot.

“If they don’t tell us before they hit ‘cast,’ there’s nothing we can do,” Sosebee said.


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