Affidavit: Many ballot irregularities

McCrory claims he found 877 anomalies after reviewing ballots

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COEUR d'ALENE - The absentee ballot envelopes have been reviewed, and around 900 have possible irregularities, a court filing says.

Bill McCrory, a supporter of seat 2 challenger Jim Brannon and who recently attempted unsuccessfully to intervene in the election challenge lawsuit, signed a court affidavit claiming he found 877 anomalies after reviewing the absentee ballot envelopes July 7.

Those range from questionable elector signatures and envelopes that weren't dated or time stamped by the election staff when they were received, the affidavit states.

But election officials said they aren't so sure those are missteps at all.

They took an oath of privacy pertaining to the ballot material that was reviewed last week, but said the alleged envelope anomalies could just appear that way to the untrained eye.

"That's certainly the big picture," said Dan English, Kootenai County clerk. "I just have to wonder if there was an inaccurate conclusion."

The biggest number of envelopes with alleged anomalies, according to the affidavit, is the 699 envelopes that didn't have the time stamped on them, and another 593 envelopes that weren't dated, violations of Idaho code, the affidavit states.

It's called time stamping, and must be done by the office when it receives the absentee votes "mailed or delivered to the officer," according to Idaho code 50-447.

But just because they're not time-stamped doesn't mean they're inadmissible, English said, as some aren't required to be.

The Secretary of State's Office classifies voters who walk in early to vote - not the ones who receive ballots though the mail - as their voting day, and therefore don't need to be time stamped.

Of the roughly 2,000 people who voted absentee leading up to the Nov. 3, 2009, city general election, just over 900 of them walked in early, meaning their envelopes wouldn't need it.

It's unclear if those are the same ballots McCrory entered as questionable pertaining to time stamping. He did not return messages from The Press. Brannon's attorney, Starr Kelso, declined to comment.

"The affidavit speaks for itself," Kelso said. "It is what it is."

Brannon is challenging his five vote loss to seat 2 incumbent Mike Kennedy for the Coeur d'Alene City Council. After dozens of motions and several court hearings, the county turned over the requested ballot materials for review. They're back under lock and key now, but McCrory's affidavit included photographs of several of the questionable envelopes.

"Anyone can say anything. They can take anything and turn it this way and that," said Deedie Beard, election manger at the time of the election, since retired. "I conducted that election, and I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that nothing was illegal."

The affidavit said about 56 envelopes did not have bar codes, and 35 lacked labels.

The bar codes are akin to bar codes in a supermarket, essentially a convenience tool that allows the election staff to swipe in the received ballot through a computer, Beard and English said. If the bar code is absent or is only a partial that can't be read, the staff can enter the voter information by hand.

"It's great to have in a bigger county like ours," English said. "But it's not a requirement."

Beard's envelope was included in the affidavit.

The labels are the voter's name and address printed out. Beard said those too could be written by hand, and were not a matter of law. Idaho codes 50-446 and 50-447, which the affidavit cited, does not say that either the label or code is required.

The affidavit also pinpoints about 15 envelopes that had signature anomalies. Of those, either the signature didn't match the printed label of the voter, weren't signed at all, or had a "whited out" signature.

Included in the affidavit are photos of two envelopes where the signature didn't match the label name. Both appear to be from married couples with the same last name, where the female signed the envelope with the male's label, such as with Christopher and Debra Locke. Debra Locke signed the envelope on which was Christopher Locke's printed label.

The couples could not be located for comment.

But it could be a case of a common misstep made by married couples, Beard said.

When a couple each receives an absentee ballot in the mail, they can accidentally switch envelopes before signing and mailing them back. Their votes are mailed back separately, but in switched envelopes, and therefore counted.

"Every time we go to training the Secretary of State's office tells us time and time again to err on the side of the voter," English said of the allowance.

There are four examples in the affidavit that state the envelopes weren't signed. In each case, the envelope was signed, but under the line that only military and abroad voters are to sign. Regular absentee ballots have only one place for the elector's signature. For military and abroad, there are two, but they are only supposed to sign the second one which affirms they are indeed military or abroad.

There were several envelopes included under other types of anomalies, according to the affidavit.

The trial has been set for 9 a.m. Sept. 13.

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