Ballot box pic

This photo of Douglas County election workers looking at what appears to be a ballot caused a Facebook frenzy over the weekend by many who were afraid the workers were up to something nefarious. Elections Director Milton Kidd said the envelope was empty and the workers were looking to see if there was any identifying information on it.

A photo of election workers looking at what appears to be a ballot at the drop box at the Douglas County Courthouse caused a frenzy over the weekend by some on Facebook who said they were worried about the workers trying to read the ballot for nefarious purposes.

But Douglas County Elections Director Milton Kidd said what was actually happening in the photo is that the official election employees noticed the envelope didn’t have any identifying information on it and that the envelope was empty, which he said has been an issue for his office.

Since the envelope was blank, Kidd said the county elections office has no way of determining who might have been trying to vote so they can be contacted.

He said when returning an absentee ballot, voters first put their ballot in an envelope that just says “Official Absentee Ballot” with no identifying information on it.

That inner envelope is put into a separate outside envelope which has the voter’s info on it including their voter registration number, name, address and their signature which is matched with the signature on file before a vote is counted.

Kidd said all envelopes have to be checked to make sure “spoiled” isn’t written on them, which would void the vote and allow the voter to vote in-person or request another absentee ballot.

Kidd said ballots placed in a drop box not that are not in an outer envelope with a signature can’t be counted because there is no way to verify the voter’s information.

Michael Leavitt, one of the employees in the picture, posted to Facebook it was the only envelope they held up to look at and “we needed to know because some people drop off their ballot applications, and their voter registration applications in that box too and we have to keep all of them separate.”

He echoed Kidd’s explanation that the envelope appeared empty and that it wasn’t an official ballot envelope but rather a “business size” envelope. And he noted: “No matter how strong sunlight is, you can’t see through the ballot envelopes. They are designed that way on purpose.”