By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Oct. 19, 2017) Members of the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Elections Committee are looking for ways to make sure each vote cast is counted. While the total number of ballots cast have stayed essentially the same during recent board of directors elections, the number invalidated appears to be increasing. According to election committee records, 3,491 ballots were counted this year, 3,458 were cast in 2015, and 3,428 were cast in 2014. No data is available from 2016, because the committee membership disbanded before submitting a full report. But in addition to those counted, according to committee reports, 45 ballots were rejected in 2015 and 79 were rejected in 2014. This year, the number of rejected ballots ballooned to 129. Of those, 40 voted for more than the allowed number of candidates (two), seven were marked improperly, five were blank, four used the wrong return envelope and one included a write-in vote, apparently for Mickey Mouse. Additionally, 72 ballots were received after the Aug. 10 deadline. Two of the four candidates who ran, Doug Parks and Dr. Colette Horn, where elected to serve three-year terms on the board. Elections Committee Chairman Steve Tuttle said during a meeting last Friday that the number of discarded ballots were within the margin of the second and third-place finishers. Horn was elected after receiving 1,647 votes, while former director Marty Clarke had to settle for third place, receiving 68 fewer (1,579). “I was surprised how many people mismarked their ballots,” Tuttle said. “The election results could have come out completely differently had the people who mismarked, marked correctly.” Director Slobodan Trendic, the committee liaison to the board, agreed. “Every vote counts in a given election, especially in this past one [when] the margin was very narrow between the elected one and the one that finished third,” he said. According to Attachment A of Resolution M-06, governing elections, ballots are due on the Thursday before the Saturday annual meeting, when results are announced. Votes are traditionally counted on the day before the annual meeting. Committee members speculated the large number of late ballots could have occurred because letters mailed in Ocean Pines are actually processed by a U.S. Post Office in Easton, potentially adding several days to the process. Committee member Mark Heintz suggested setting the due date back one week, “and then we could pick up the stragglers.” “That’s an excellent idea and I think that’s the way to go,” committee member Steve Habeger said. Tuttle added, “we’d be glad to hear from people if they’ve got ideas” to reduce the number of discarded ballots. “Each ballot is important and we need to make sure they’re given the proper authority,” Habeger said. To contact members of the elections committee, visit www.oceanpines.org/administration/advisory-committees/elections-committee.