News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 30, 2012

2 hours later, mail-in ballot issue unresolved

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — An issue of reviewing mail-in ballots remained unresolved Monday after two Democratic members of the three-member Vigo County Election Board Monday voted to recess its meeting.

Vigo County Clerk Patricia Mansard said there was not time to continue the two-hour board meeting as she was to conduct election training sessions.

Before recessing, Mansard told the board that a letter was sent to former Vigo GOP chairman Bill Treadway on June 21 seeking recommendations for bipartisan boards. Christopher Dailey, an attorney and the Republican board member, said he had not seen that letter before the meeting.

Dailey became a board member in July. Randall Gentry, the current GOP chairman, took over as party chairman in September. A telephone call seeking comment was left Monday on a cell phone for Treadway.

Later in the meeting, the Election Board unanimously voted to appoint several bipartisan boards, which included an absentee ballot board to review mail-in ballots.

That board is to compare signatures on a mail-in ballot application with signatures on the returned ballot envelope along with a voter poll book.

At issue is the number of ballots that should be reviewed, a topic discussed in the final 20 minutes of the meeting.

Dailey said all mail-in ballots should be reviewed by the newly appointed bipartisan boards.

Michael Slagle, the Democratic member and board president, and Mansard, a Democrat who sits on the board in her position as county clerk, said many mail-in ballots were already reviewed over the weekend by both Democrats and Republicans.

Mansard said the ballots were reviewed by Republicans appointed by the GOP party chairman, including the chairman’s wife.

“I don’t think even your own party chairman has any question about what happened last Saturday. Those were the people he [Gentry] instructed to appear and work,” Slagle said.

Dailey said his position remains that appointed bipartisan boards must review the ballots under state law.

“You are wanting to invalidate what they did on Saturday?” Mansard asking, adding that the election is a week away and it would be impossible to repeat the work, as there are more than 1,700 mail-in ballots.

“I don’t like your terminology,” Dailey said. “What I want to see is simply that, in accordance with Indiana law, that these bipartisan absentee voter board review the absentee ballots. It is quite simple what I would like to see done. I understand the 11th [-hour] aspect of what we are doing here. I understand full well.”

Mansard said she thinks the review was valid. Dailey disagreed.

Gentry, contacted after the meeting, said, “I think we can all agree that is not an issue. If all parties agree on the work that was done, I am OK with that. I don’t want to go back over covered ground. I want to go over ground that was not covered,” he said.

“This has got politics and personalities all mixed in a big bowl, but it is not an exercise in stupidity. I don’t want to go over covered ground. My point is that we do this in a bipartisan way by the law,” Gentry said.

“I don’t want to disenfranchise any voter, but just make sure the process is fair and maintain the integrity of the ballot,” Gentry said.

Before the discussion of mail-in ballots, the board reviewed signatures of applications for a mail-in ballot, as Monday was the last day ballots could be mailed out to a voter.

The board determined that 11 ballots should be mailed, with signatures then compared again when the ballot is returned. There were five ballots for which the board instructed the clerk’s office to telephone voters to confirm they were requesting a ballot.

That’s because those ballot applications either contained no signature or had a printed signature. The voter would have to go to the clerk’s office and sign the appropriate form for the mail-in ballot.

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or at howard.greninger@