There are ballot errors – the misspellings, typos and misalignments that can prompt last-minute changes ahead of Election Day. Then there are errors, and Stephen D’Angelo found himself on the receiving end of a major one. On Oct. 6, a Saturday, the Democratic nominee for Rockingham County District 4 received a flood of emails with alerts from supporters. The absentee ballots had been sent out to voters, the emails said, and D’Angelo’s name wasn’t on them. In the box for the Democrat in his House race, instead, was D’Angelo’s primary opponent Russell Norman, whom he had defeated in September by five votes. One Republican representative from the same five-seat district, Jess Edwards, had posted a screenshot of the ballot on a Facebook page. “I thought he was kidding,” D’Angelo, of Chester, said in an interview. “I thought it was a joke at first. I looked on the secretary of state’s website and lo and behold, it was accurate.”
It was the weekend and D’Angelo had little immediate recourse. By Tuesday, the error had been corrected and the ballots replaced, according to the secretary of state’s office.
But by then the ballots had already been sent out, and the federal deadline for overseas absentee ballots – Sept. 22 – had passed.
Amplifying the problem: D’Angelo wasn’t alone. Two more candidates discovered errors on their absentee ballots. Tammy Siekmann, a Democratic state Senate candidate from Londonderry, was listed in the Libertarian column; Gray Chynoweth, a Manchester Democrat running for Executive Council, was in the Democratic column but with a Libertarian label. All three candidates have since had their ballots corrected and replaced.
For critics of the secretary of state’s office, the errors add to evidence that the review process for ballots is flawed and error-prone.
“With the high number of offices and candidates on each ballot in New Hampshire, mistakes are possible, but the errors and inconsistencies … are unacceptable,” said Liz Wester, state director of the voting advocacy group America Votes, which has called on the state to undergo a review of all ballots for accuracy.