Senate Candidate’s Ballot Pre-Voted For Opponent
QUIRKY STORY OF THE ELECTION
Democratic Nebraska Senatorial challenger Charlie Matulka got pounded in the Nebraska. But there was one vote that Republican incumbent Chuck Hagel shouldn’t have gotten, which almost ended up in his column. Matulka went to the polls to vote for himself. He was surprised to discover, when he looked at his ballot, that it was already marked -- for his Republican challenger Chuck Hagel. He had arrived at the polls in casual clothes, and many didn’t know who he was. Matulka dropped the ballot on the floor accidentally while going to the voting booth, and that is when he noticed that the box for “Hagel” had already been filled in. He got a replacement ballot and voted as planned.
The poll workers explained that the ballots Matulka had been given probably belonged to another voter, and that somehow they had been given out as fresh ballots instead of putting them in the ballot box. Sandra Eltiste, the local Elections Commissioner, confirmed that the problem had been reported. She explained the voting procedure this way: The ballots, which are about 14 x 8 1/2 inches, are preloaded into 1/4-inch thick sleeves and then given to the voter. After voting, the voter hands the ballots back to the poll worker, who then puts the ballots in the ballot box. According to Eltiste, who spoke with the poll workers, a voter must have left the filled out ballots on the table, and the poll worker then gave the completed ballots to Matulka when he signed in.
Matulka had been running an uphill battle all along. He’s a construction worker who pulled just $800 from his personal savings to invest in his early campaign, and, nonetheless, won 33,000 votes to take the primary. His opponent in the Senate race, Chuck Hagel, raised $1.9 million. Matulka passed out flyers door to door while Hagel ran one glitzy TV ad after another.
However, the most unusual wrinkle in the campaign, is that in Nebraska, only one company is certified to sell vote-counting machines -- ES&S, whose owner and director, Michael R. McCarthy, also happens to be campaign treasurer of the Hagel for Senate [re-]Election Committee. The Omaha World Herald reported that the McCarthy Group owned 35% of ES&S and Michael McCarthy is also the Chairman of the McCarthy Group.
Hagel himself, in his 1998 FEC Personal Financial Disclosure document, lists an investment of between $1-$5 million in the McCarthy Group. Hagel was the CEO and Chairman of the voting machine company shortly before his upset election to the Senate in 1996. The Washington Post said it was the biggest upset of the 1996 election, because he was running against popular incumbent Senator Ben Nelson, and most remarkably, according to the Hastings Tribune, Hagel swept all three congressional districts, winning counties up and down the politically diverse Platte River Valley, topping it off with victories in Omaha and Lincoln. Hagel became the first Republican to win a Nebraska Senate race in 24 years.
According to the Nebraska Elections Division, ES&S machines count 80 percent of Nebraska’s vote, and the remaining 20 percent are hand counted. Beatrice Elections Commissioner Eltiste says the machines are 99.9 percent accurate. However, in Nebraska the election workers never look at the paper ballots, and Eltiste said she is not aware of any spot check procedure to compare the votes cast with the votes counted by the ES&S machines. “I’m sure everything is on the up and up,” says Eltiste.
- Contacts: Nebraska Democratic Senate Candidate Charlie Matulka 402-228-1009 Beatrice Elections Commissioner Sandra Eltiste 402-228-3355 or direct line 402-223-1361 Bev Harris,voting machine problems; ES&S ownership: 425-228-7131 DOCUMENTS http://www.talion.com/Hagel.html 31 Election Mistakes: http://www.talion.com/election-mistakes.html