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Hamilton County already experiencing issues with mail-in absentee ballots

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The Hamilton County clerk has received just over 400 completed mail-in absentee ballots, and a handful came back with issues.

One ballot that came in Monday morning was not signed while another rejected ballot did not have a proper matching signature. Ballots with questionable signatures are examined by a representative of both parties. Both must agree before a ballot is rejected.

Mail-in absentee ballots arrive at voters’ homes with a lot of paperwork. Many counties will send ballots in envelopes containing the ballot, a ballot card, a state-mandated secrecy sleeve and, of course, instructions.

Ballots are to be mailed back in security “return envelopes” that must be signed.

Kathy Williams, the Hamilton County clerk, says new rules handed down by a federal court prohibits her office from tossing out unsigned ballots.

“People sometimes forget to sign their ballots. If their ballot is not signed, we have a new procedure this year. The federal courts said we cannot throw out for mismatched signatures or no signatures without sending a notification to the voter,” Williams said.

Every race on the ballot is assigned a number. The voter fills in the bubble next to the number of the corresponding race on the ballot card. That card will be scanned on Election Day.

Election workers check the signature on the return envelope and the ballot application. If the signatures match, the unopened envelop is set aside until Election Day.

“The biggest issue we have, sometimes people will mark the paper ballot and not mark the card. We don’t want you doing that. It doesn’t throw your ballot out. We can take this and have an ‘R’ and a ‘D’ fill out the card on your behalf,” Williams said.

So far, Hamilton County has sent out just over 29,000 mail-in absentee ballots for the general election on Nov. 3. Voters have five weeks to request a ballot. Williams says, if you received a post card from the U.S. Postal Service about mail-in absentee ballots, the dates are not accurate. She says it is better to request a ballot now than wait until the last minute.

Indiana county clerk’s offices are required to send an affidavit to the voters that send in unsigned ballots. Once the affidavit is returned, then the ballot is counted.