State election officials plan to review the state’s labeling of absentee ballot envelopes with letters that identify if a voter is a Republican or a Democrat, a state spokesman said. To help election officials in counties sort absentee ballots, the return envelopes used to send back completed ballots have a letter ‘R’ or ‘D’ after voters’ name on the return address part of the envelopes. “We have not had complaints about it and we’re not aware of tampering with because of ballots with this issue,” state Department of State spokesman Ronald G. Ruman said. Several constituents of state Sen. Lisa Baker raised concerns that the party labeling could encourage someone with access to the ballots to remove the ballots of a party they dislike. Baker was concerned enough to introduce a bill last year to remove the party designations from return envelopes.
The bill has 12 co-sponsors, with support from Democratic and Republican senators, but has remained pending in the Senate State Government Committee. “We had heard from some people and it was a concern,” said Jennifer Wilson, Baker’s chief of staff. Absentee ballots are cast in advance of an election by people unable to go to their polling place on Election Day. The letters ‘R’ and ‘D’ are no larger than a voter’s name on the return envelope, but separated by some spaces. The letters were added in 2003, when the state switched to its Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, Ruman said. The Department of State has a bureau that oversees and regulates elections.