ALLEGHENY CO., Pa. — More than 40 voters in Allegheny County had their mail-in ballots sent to the wrong address, and the question now is--Do they even know?
11 Investigates was contacted by one of voters impacted. Kristina Badali of Baldwin learned about the problem by chance, when she went to visit her parents in Oakmont.
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“My mom handed me the ballot, and I said, 'What is this all about?” Badali explained.
The problem. Badali hasn’t lived at her parent’s home in more than a decade. She is registered to vote from her address in Baldwin, about 25 miles away from her parent’s home.
“I’m concerned. I think this is something we need to investigate and make sure we’re resolving, so we can all vote in this important election coming up,” Badali said.
Computer Glitch to Blame
Badali called the county to try and find out what happened and filled out their online inquiry form.
She got a response from Allegheny County Communications Director Amie Downs the next day.
The email dated September 29th said, “We were notified yesterday by the state of a problem with an update that they did that resulted in data for 44 voters pulling old information. Your name was on that list.”
In a second email, Downs explained further saying, “You were one of 40-some voters whose addresses did not migrate during a recent update by the state.”
She apologized to Badali for the error and told her she would be sent a new ballot, adding, “The one received at your parent’s house can be destroyed.”
Badali waited for the new ballot, but when she didn’t get it after about a week, wrote back and was told she could just use the other one sent to her parent’s home, but to change the address on the outside envelope. She did that and was able to track through the county system that her ballot was received.
“This election is very important and I think everybody needs to get their voice heard and counted,” Badali said.
Badali is relieved that the county received her ballot, but after all the confusion, worries the other voters impacted might not even know about the wrong address problem.
“I’m concerned that those 40 some individuals don’t know,” she said. “The county needs to explain what folks need to do and folks need to be knowledgeable to do the appropriate steps.”
When contacted by 11 Investigates, the state initially deflected responsibility.
“Angie, the county has not made us aware of this issue, and without details we cannot offer any comment or explanation,” PA Secretary of State Deputy Communications Director Ellen Lyon wrote in an email.
11 Investigates followed up with more information, and Lyon responded saying the state is now researching the situation and will get back to us with more information—including why voters were not notified and whether more counties around the state were impacted. (We will update this story when that information is received).
The “address migration” issue according to the county, happened more than three weeks ago.
Downs, the Allegheny County Communications Director, told channel 11 Friday that the wrong address problem was a state issue. She reiterated that in a second phone call this week saying, “We were notified by the state.”
On the heels of the more than 29,000 ballots in Allegheny County last week that were misprinted, and reports around the state of some mail-in ballots being thrown away, voters like Badali want to see more transparency.
“People want answers. People want to know what to do, how they should follow up, and how to resolve the situation,” Badali said.
Elections Manager Explains Wrong Ballot Issue
On Tuesday, at Allegheny County’s last Board of Elections meeting before November 3rd, board member Bethany Hallam asked the county to explain what happened with the ballots sent to wrong addresses.
“Are you aware of the issue and what are you doing to correct it?” Hallam asked.
Elections Manager David Voye said the glitch initially impacted a much bigger batch of voters than just the 44 in Allegheny County.
“These are voters who applied in the primary and were permanent, so they would get a ballot in November,” Voye said.
He said the state caught the mistake and was able to correct most of the wrong addresses before ballots were mailed.
“It was actually a state’s process that had the wrong address.” Voye said. “There were all but 44 they were able to catch, and we manually re-mailed those voters ballots.”
For those 44 voters, the state system apparently failed to migrate their current addresses, so ballots were sent to previous addresses.
Impacted voters were not notified about the mistake. That concerns Kristina Badali, who was among impacted voters.
“It is concerning that this happened, I feel the state should have notified us immediately,” Badali said.
Also, the original ballots sent to wrong addresses were not voided—leaving open potential for possible fraud.
There are protections in place to prevent someone from voting under the same name twice. The state says each voter has a unique ballot number and that ballot number is rejected if someone tries to vote a second time.
Voye says the county will deal with any issues of potential fraud on a case by case basis, if an impacted voter notifies them they were blocked from voting.
"I feel like that’s reactive, instead of proactive,' Badali said. “If a ballot is sitting there at an old address, someone could get ahold of it and vote fraudulently. I just want to make sure our vote is counted.”