Absentee ballot protocol explained

More than four times the number of Rogers County residents requested an absentee ballot this year than they have in previous primary elections.

As the 2,300 absentee ballots are being filled out and sent back in, Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody has noticed a few common mistakes.

Those little mistakes have big consequences, like the compromised privacy of your vote, and in some cases, your vote not counting at all.

Dermody said that residents of Rogers County who requested absentee ballots should have received them already, folded together in a large envelope that also contained three other envelopes.

Of the two envelopes inside, one says “Ballots” and the other says “Affidavit” and includes a form along the outside.

The pink affidavit envelope is for people listed as incapacitated, and the yellow envelope is for standard voters.

The incapacitated absentee ballot requires two witness signatures or a copy of a state or federally issued photo ID, such as a drivers license or passport. An incapacitated voter can also send a copy of their state-issued voter ID card.

The standard absentee ballot requires either the signature of a notary public, or a copy of a state or federally issued photo ID.

Once a voter has filled out their ballot, completed ballots go, by themselves, in the secret ballot envelope.

The sealed ballot envelope then goes inside the affidavit envelope, again by itself.

The information asked for on the outside of the affidavit envelope should be completed. Voters who opted for signatures or a notary should have the affidavit signed or notarized. Voters who opted to use a copy of their photo ID should attach the ID to the outside of the affidavit envelope, either with a paper clip or by wrapping the piece of paper around the envelope.

With the copy of ID on the outside of the affidavit envelope, the entire contents goes into the third envelope, pre-addressed to the Rogers County Election Board.

Postage for absentee ballots in this election will be between $0.60 and $0.70 depending on the number of ballots you are voting.

Dermody said it is critical that the steps are followed in that order, because when they envelopes are opened at the election board, they have to verify that each set of ballots has come from a registered voter before the secret ballot envelope can be placed on the stack to be opened and counted later.

“Ballot envelopes are opened separately so that nobody knows how you voted,” Dermody said.

However, a common mistake is that people have put their photo ID inside the secret ballot envelope instead of outside the affidavit envelope.

“I don’t want to see how you voted, and my board doesn’t want to see how you voted either,” Dermody said. However, when a voter’s photo ID copy is in the wrong place, the election board has to open every envelope to ensure a registered voter’s legal vote doesn’t go uncounted. This can triple the amount of time it takes to process a single ballot.

Those ballots that do not provide the correct signature or photo ID are not counted.

“Keep your information on the outside of your affidavit, please,” Dermody said.

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