By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
A Quay County commissioner seeking re-election has expressed concern and displeasure over the accuracy of the registered voter list obtained from the County Clerk’s Office, where officials warned her about list discrepancies.
“It is not right for a candidate to look at a financial report and see a loss,” said District 1 Commissioner Sue Dowell, who said she has posted a loss of $354.38 from the production and mailing of hundreds of campaign mailers that were returned as undeliverable.
“The information in the voter registration list that I paid for was inaccurate,” Dowell said. “This resulted in the largest financial loss in my campaign.”
Dowell asked for a copy of the voter registration on March 16, the day voter registration books were reopened, said Chief Deputy Clerk Ellen White.
White said she cautioned Dowell about errors resulting from duplication, as well as the possibility of return mailers from inactive voters and unreported address changes. She said despite her warning, Dowell still requested a copy of the list. “I even gave Dowell a credit for repeated addresses that were slated for correction,” White said.
White said at the time of Dowell’s request the Clerk’s Office had not had time to work on updating or correcting the voter registration rolls, which continue to change daily. She said along with online voter registration, many voters have changed their party affiliation for the upcoming election.
Dowel said the timing of her request for the list makes no difference, that the number of undeliverable addresses would still have been just as high. She said the Clerk’s Office should not charge anyone so much money for a list containing bad information. “I spent $184 on a bad list,” Dowell said.
“We cannot simply remove voters from the registry at will. That would be illegal,” White said. “There is a process that must be followed. Otherwise our hands are tied.”
White said the Clerk’s Office has to follow strict statutes for the removal of inactive voters from the registry. She said they couldn’t deviate from the statute to remove a voter even if they know the voter no longer resides in the county.
Under state law, the accepted reasons for removing a voter from the registration rolls include: a voter’s death; court documents validating legal insanity; a felony conviction; or a purge. Even through a purge, a voter must be inactive for four years before the county can remove the voter from the list, White added.
Dowell said White and County Clerk Veronica Marez have told her that these discrepancies occur in other counties as well.
“I am not the type to say this happens in other counties and leave it at that,” Dowell said. “If things don’t work, you’re supposed to fix them.”
The County Assessor’s Office has dealt with receiving returned notices of values with bad addresses, said Janie Hoffman, chief deputy assessor.
“One of the main issues we face is that people aren’t in a rush to come in and report a change of address to our offices,” said County Assessor Vic Baum.
Dowell said she intends to pursue this issue further and has even spoken to a state legislator about the matter.
“If there is any way that this system can be improved, then it should be done,” Dowell said.