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Buffalo voter reports ripped ballots; election official sees no widespread problem

Sarah Evans of Buffalo was trying to do her civic duty – voting in Tuesday's election at the YMCA on Delaware Avenue – when a tear in her ballot almost prevented her from casting her vote.

She said she wasn't the only one to have to deal with a torn ballot. She said she saw a poll worker accidentally rip a ballot as it was being torn from the ballot booklet and she also saw a torn ballot left in a voting machine that showed it had been rejected.

"I've never had a voting experience like that before," she said.

When Evans got to the front of the line to get her ballot, the poll worker tore a ballot out of a booklet. But the ballot tore slightly along the perforated edge.

"It ripped along the edge," Evans said. "She didn't seem to care."

Evans filled out her ballot and took it to the voting machines where a man directed her to insert the ballot into the correct machine.

But it rejected her ballot. He instructed her to put the ballot in a different way but that didn't work either.

"Maybe you filled it out wrong," he suggested.

Evans took the ballot back to the poll worker who wrote VOID on the ballot and handed her a new one from the booklet. As she was in line, another voter received a ripped ballot and Evans warned him the machine would reject it. That voter got a new ballot, too.

When Evans filled out her ballot, she said she went back to the proper voting machine and saw that in the one next to hers there was a torn ballot. The screen indicated it had been rejected.

"Is her vote going to count?" she asked the poll worker, who said he would put it in the emergency bin.

Evans posted about her experience on Facebook and a friend replied that he had a similar experience Tuesday.

Robin Sion, deputy commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections, said she was not aware of widespread problems with torn ballots.

But she said there's an array of contingency plans in place should something happen to a ballot.

The ballots are contained in a booklet stapled together along the edge.

"They have to be torn from the perforation," Sion explained. "Maybe some have ripped."

If there's a tear or if there's an extraneous mark on the ballot, the voting machine won't accept it, she said.

"The machine is acting properly by rejecting it," she said.

The inspector at the voting site is supposed to collect the torn ballot and the voter should get a new one.

"We have to account for everything," she said. "We call it spoiling."

Voters who experience problems at their voting sites should alert the inspector or call the Board of Elections at 858-8891.

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