Thursday, September 20, 2001

Error voids election

Board will conduct new vote itself

By Liz Sodoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A new election will be held for two open seats on the board that oversees the $50 billion retirement fund for more than 500,000 public employees.

        This time, however, the Public Employees Retirement System board will run the election in-house, said Linda Lewis, a board spokeswoman.

        The board on Wednesday invalidated votes that already had been cast in the election, run by, a company in Garden City, N.Y., Ms. Lewis said.

        Voting began Sept. 4 and was to run through the end of the month.

        The board made the decision after discovering that, which the board had hired for about $112,000, failed to include voter identification numbers on paper ballots it mailed out.

        The error made it impossible to determine if someone had voted more than once. Each voter identification number was to be printed on mail-in ballots or punched in during telephone voting.

        The board has nine members — six elected and three required by law — who are responsible for, among other duties, deciding where to invest the contributions paid into the fund.

        In the past, the board operated its own elections at a cost of about $75,000. This year, the board decided to hire so voters could cast ballots by either telephone or mail.

        Ms. Lewis said the board likely will ask for a refund, but noted the board had not yet contacted the company.

        “It just seems that this will be a question that we will be pursuing,” she said.

        Bill Taylor, the company's senior vice president, said the company had offered to operate another election free of charge if the board voided the current election.

        Ms. Lewis said the board will work through October to develop new ballots, with voting taking place through November. The goal, she said, is to have the results certified by December.

        About 160,000 PERS members are eligible to vote for the two open seats, one representing county employees and the other representing various employees, including library, sanitary, township and cemetery workers.

        Two candidates were vying for each position.


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