Five percent of the ballots processed during the 2019 special election in Phelps County had ambiguous markings which resulted in the voting machine rejecting the ballot — a delay which could have been prevented, Phelps County Clerk Pamela Grow said.

Voters now have a new format when they fill out their ballots and must color in the oval next to their choice using the black pen provided. Voters who make an error or change their mind are not to correct the ballot, and instead exchange their ballot for a new one, Grow said.

Write-in candidates must write the candidate name and color the oval to receive a vote, Grow adds.

Absentee ballots that were mailed in with an ‘X’ or a check mark next to the voter's choice had to be converted to 'proper ballot markings' by the county’s bipartisan judge teams, Grow said.

“It was about 5 percent of the ballots they processed election night which needed this additional step, since the machines would not read the marks used by the voters,” Grow said. “The judges examined the ballots, and I would say in every case they believed the intent of the voter was very clear with where the voter’s mark has been made.”

Grow said on occasion the bipartisan team has a ballot that simply will not be read, usually due to physical damage of the ballot, and the bipartisan teams needs to recreate the ballot, spoil the original and feed the recreated ballot into the machine with all the other absentees. This tends to happen long after envelopes have been separated from ballots, and Grow says she has never seen ballot secrecy compromised in this process.

Grow reminds voters to use the new format when marking their ballots in the upcoming 2020 election.