Poll workers corrected after Cottage Grove voter complains of election judge's amendment instructionsOfficials corrected poll workers at a Cottage Grove precinct at mid-day today after a voter reported that an election judge gave instructions on the state constitutional amendments beyond what is allowed.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
Officials corrected poll workers at a Cottage Grove precinct today after a voter reported that an election judge gave instructions on the state constitutional amendments beyond what is allowed.
Cottage Grove resident Mary Isely said her Precinct 2 polling location at Light the Way Church was busy when she voted at 10:30 a.m. Isely said an election judge distributing ballots was telling voters in a loud tone that leaving the state constitutional amendment questions unchecked would be a “no” vote. The judge was very specific and was pointing to the amendments, Isely said.
“Everyone in line, we all heard it. The place was just packed,” Isely told the Bulletin. “I was rather startled. My impression is that judges weren’t supposed to say anything at all about filling in (a) ballot.”
Voters are deciding today in separate measures whether to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and to require photo identification to vote in future elections. The worker was correct about a blank ballot equaling a “no” vote, but Isley said it seemed like the judge was an amendment supporter.
Isely told the Bulletin she inquired with other election workers at the polling site, but was not given a phone number for the city clerk. She then went to Cottage Grove City Hall and spoke to staff.
Cottage Grove employee Joe Fischbach said he talked to election workers in Precinct 2 to make clear that poll workers are not allowed to provide the information that was being given earlier today. Election judges only can advise voters to completely fill in the ovals on their ballot.
"We're not supposed to let them know one way or the other on any of the initiatives," Fischbach said.
The Cottage Grove issue was resolved before 1:30 p.m.
Jennifer Wagenius, director of Washington County Property Records and Taxpayer Services, said there was a similar complaint of election workers saying too much about the proposed constitutional amendments in an Afton precinct this morning. County elections staff talked with poll workers there as well.
“That was taken care of,” Wagenius said.
Fischbach said voting in Cottage Grove generally was heavy but smooth by mid-afternoon.
Election workers at Precinct 11 at Pine Hill Elementary School did detect a problem early today with a device that assists voters who are visually impaired. Fischbach said when polls opened workers tried a test ballot on the Automark machine, but the ink cartridge did not work. That was replaced. Nobody's ballot was affected, he said.