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Election Board Struggle With Complex Voter Laws

The Monroe County Election Board struggled with the complexities of election law May 16 as they decided whether to invalidate some ballots cast during the May 6 primary election.

The Board met to consider provisional ballots, which voters cast when poll workers have questions about their eligibility to vote. In one case, County Clerk Linda Robbins said a homeless man voted at the wrong polling place.

William Ellis, a substitute Board member representing the Republican party, said he would like to count the vote. But Ellis said that wasn’t possible because the voter used the wrong ballot, meaning he would have voted in some of the wrong races.

“Being homeless is a hard enough hardship and the vote, if all being equal, I’d be inclined to make this valid,” Ellis says. “It’s hard to prove where you live if you aren’t living anywhere.”

Ellis participated as a Board member even though he plans to run for office in November. Ellis has said he plans to seek the Republican nomination for County Assessor during a caucus this summer.

The Board members were not allowed to look at the provisional ballots they considered. That restriction became an issue when one voter’s paperwork was sealed in an envelope along with the ballot.

The Board voted to rule that ballot invalid. The Board considered some provisional ballots that were cast by voters who did not bring IDs to the polls. Robbins, who opposes the state’s voter ID law, recommended counting one of those ballots.

She said poll workers might not have instructed the voter on how to ensure their vote would be counted after Election Day.

“I do believe the photo ID is a burden for certain individuals,” Robbins says.

Later in the meeting, Robbins said the complex rules for casting provisional ballots are often a source of confusion during elections.

“Filling out a provisional ballot at the polls has been a huge challenge for us,” Robbins says. “It’s very confusing for everybody. Frankly, I’ll commend anybody that has the patience to stay there and must really want to vote to go through that process.”

The Board voted to invalidate two provisional ballots cast at retirement homes. The voters had been registered to vote at previous residences.

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