Southern Arizona | Investigating 4 You

N4T Investigators: Correcting the ballot mistake

TUCSON –  “I just didn’t really understand how a mistake like that could be made,” Kathy Abel told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.  Ms. Abel is one of the 529 southwest side residents who were mailed incomplete ballots last month. They all live in voting precinct 22.  We first reported this last month,  but decided to take a closer look at how it happened and what’s being done to prevent it from happening again.

The first ballot they received omitted the race for Tucson Unified School District board seats. All five candidates (for two seats) were left off the ballot. “I didn’t understand it” Abel said, “to  leave it off in this district, where that is an important vote.”

After the mistake was discovered by a voter last month, the county recorder sent out a letter telling affected voters they’d get a second, corrected ballot in the mail by Oct.17.  Also, Elections Department workers knocked on the affected voters’ doors and called them to inform them of the mistake. People who already sent in the incomplete ballot were given two options: Vote and return the second, corrected ballot, in which case their first one would not be counted. Or, if they didn’t want to vote a second time, their first ballot would be counted.

TUSD board member Adelita Grijalva said, “It’s difficult enough to get people to vote in the first place.” She is concerned people won’t want to spend the time to vote again, and worried that the omission could affect the election’s outcome. In 2014, board member Michael Hicks won by only 517 votes.

Elections Department Director Brad Nelson told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “We got the ballot printed incorrectly, so it’s something that is entirely our fault.  Certainly,  right now we’re more interested in fixing the problem. We’re going to be looking at the remedies as time goes on, but certainly think the proofreaders and readers meaning, not just one person, perhaps their process needs to be improved.”

Nelson said two or three of his current proofreaders simply missed the mistake, and that in the future, four or five proofreaders will be used. “The more eyes we put on that work the better,” Nelson said.

It will be interesting to see how many voters in that precinct do not want to vote a second time.  Keep in mind, early ballots can be dropped off in-person at any polling place until the polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.


Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz has been an investigative reporter since 1993. He specializes in reporting on corruption, fraud and scams.
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