When several Buffalo residents showed up to vote on Primary Day, they were shocked to find out their polling place was out of ballots.
Elections officials say that’s what happened at about five or six polling places across the city. They say the problem came down to inspector error at those locations. According to Erie County Elections Commissioners Ralph Mohr and Jeremy Zellner, inspectors are supposed to call the Board of Elections to let them know when they are running low on ballots. Apparently, that didn’t happen.
“This isn’t unheard of. It has happened before,” said Zellner shortly after the polls closed Thursday night. “But it’s something that we take very seriously.”
Zellner said turnout was around 30 percent, a high number that caused several locations to run out of ballots. Two of those poling places were at the Summer-Richmond Senior Center and North Park Academy.
Jill Kallinikos successfully voted at North Park Academy shortly before 7 p.m. But when she went with her husband about 30 minutes later so that he could vote, she says there were no more ballots left.
“They told us there were no more ballots. They ran out of ballots,” Kallinikos recalled. “One of the women sitting behind the table looked at me and she said, ‘We’ve called twice already.'”
Kallinikos’ husband returned about an hour later to see if ballots had been delivered. They had, and he voted.
“When we first went, my husband and I, and there were no ballots, what happened to all those people?” she wondered. “Did they come back and vote or was that privilege taken away from them?”
“Any time you have an election, you’re going to have human error,” Zellner said. “But we did the best we could to get everything out there. I believe everybody who wanted to vote did vote.”
Zellner said elections officials will re-emphasize this process to election inspectors before the general election in November.