When 30 Va. voters got the wrong ballot, their community rallied to make it right

The community rallied to make sure 30 voters in Fauquier County, Virginia had their votes properly counted after election officials realized they had received the wrong ballot.

When the county elections staff realized the mistake the morning of Election Day, the county registrar quickly organized a team to track down each voter.

It started with a call from a confused voter. Election Day started early for Mike Williams, who learned from his employer at the 11th hour that he’d get the day off to go vote.

“So, my son and two of our neighbors — it’s our tradition to vote together,” Williams told WTOP.

But when he flipped his ballot over to make his selections for local races, Williams said he realized he was given a ballot for the wrong district.

“I called the sheriff’s office, told them there was an issue with Kettle Run High School with voting and they needed to look into it,” he said.


“As soon as we recognized it was the wrong ballot, we stopped the process,” said Fauquier County registrar Alex Ables.

It was human error that led to a District 5 precinct receiving the District 1 ballot, Ables said. He said workers destroyed the 30 ballots that were filled in but not yet processed.

Shortly after he reached out to the sheriff’s office, Williams got a call from the county telling him to come back to the same precinct to vote again. When he arrived, a representative from the Board of Elections said he was one of 30 people who got the wrong ballot.

“The guy had a list of 30 names, and on that page of names were my two neighbors, my son, and another neighbor and church member,” Williams said.

So he called them up and handed the elections employee his phone so he could relay the urgent message to return to vote.

Using the Reverse 911 system, Ables said the sheriff’s office reached all but four voters, and asked them to come back and cast their vote on the right ballot, as their previous ballot had been intentionally destroyed. Deputies offered to knock on the doors of those voters who they didn’t reach in a last-ditch attempt to make sure their voices were counted, he said.

“I think it’s great because, you know, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or independent, it’s about democracy and making sure your vote gets counted,” Williams said. “And I’m grateful for our sheriff’s office to contact people to give them the opportunity and make sure their voice is heard in this election.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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