Pines Audit To Address Vote Total Discrepancy

OCEAN PINES – Citing errors in tabulation results, the Ocean Pines Elections Committee will convene this week to hand count paper ballots from the 2022 board election.

On Wednesday, the elections committee announced its plans to hand count paper ballot votes for the 2022 Board of Directors election on Sept. 30, beginning at 9 a.m.

“We accepted the report from the scanner/tabulation applications, added the online votes, releasing the total candidate votes,” Elections Committee Chair Carol Ludwig said in a statement this week. “When the error in the number of ballots versus the number of votes tabulated was identified, Elections Committee requested an opportunity to count the number of paper ballots.”

Ludwig noted that ballots from the August election were accessed last Friday, with a count revealing an error in the tabulations.

“This was done with a Police officer to witness the removal of the ballots and envelopes from the secure file cabinet they were placed on Aug. 11 and not accessed until Friday, Sept. 23,” she said. “Only the Elections Committee has access to this cabinet. Verifying that the number of ballots in my report was very close, we were then able to separate the online results from the tabulated votes for each candidate and identified that the error was in the scanner/tabulations results.”

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She continued, “Going forward, the Elections Committee will seek a reliable, verifiable, and well supported tabulation application.”

Election results were first called into question earlier this month when the committee released its report on the 2022 election.

In August, the committee announced the six candidates received a total of 9,053 votes.

The report, however, states a total of 2,839 online and paper ballots were returned in the 2022 board election. With each property given the opportunity to vote for up to three candidates, that would mean a maximum 8,517 votes could be counted.

While the Elections Committee plans to hold an open meeting Friday to hand count the paper ballot votes, some community members have come before the board with questions surrounding the vote discrepancy and the association’s handling of the matter.

In a board meeting last Saturday, Amy Peck, an unsuccessful candidate in this year’s election, said that the Sept. 23 meeting was held without notification and without the presence of all board members and candidates.

“It is a recipe for how to make a bad situation worse,” she said. “So much for promised transparency. Like every homeowner in Ocean Pines, I want my vote to count, and election integrity is crucial.”

She also requested more information regarding election numbers.

“I have written the directors and the election chair two times without the courtesy of a reply regarding the election numbers,” she said. “Simply put, we have more votes than possible given the number of ballots, anywhere from 450 to over 1,000 ‘extra votes.’”

During Saturday’s board meeting, Association President Doug Parks acknowledged the Sept. 23 meeting took place. He argued, however, that the meeting was open to the community.

“When the issue was brought to our attention, counsel suggested as a first step to have the elections committee recount the paper ballots,” he said. “And that was done with the full knowledge of the entire board. It was not a secret meeting. It needed to be done right away based on the availability of the elections committee folks and the availability of our attorney, who also attended that meeting.”

He continued, “It was open, the door was open the entire meeting. It wasn’t secret.”

From that meeting, Parks noted that the elections committee had counted the number of paper ballots and found them to be consistent with the number announced at the annual meeting.

“The ballot count is very distinctly different from the vote count,” he said. “The counsel suggested the ballots be counted. The ballots were counted, and they matched the number of ballots that were reported at the annual meeting.”

In a statement issued Tuesday, Parks called for the elections committee to reconvene to address the vote count discrepancy.

“The intent is to have the committee audit the votes to reconcile the totals as well as research if the ‘weighting’ of ballots for Association members with more than one home, or any other condition had an effect on the final vote tally for each of the candidates,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.