Absentee ballots in Minerals Council election won’t be returned to sender if postage insufficient

Despite multiple human errors from its third-party contractor, the Osage Minerals Council Election Board does not anticipate any completed absentee ballots being returned to sender.

Of the 573 absentee ballots mailed out for Monday’s Osage Minerals Council election, less than 50 were sent out without an outer envelope and questionable pre-paid postage on the return envelope.

“They (True Ballot) accidentally postmarked some of the envelopes,” Osage Minerals Council election supervisor Billie Ponca said. “They’ve told me it was sufficient postage, but have had some annuitants tell me it wasn’t.”

The Minerals Council Election Board has notified the Pawhuska Post Office about the stamp situation and will pay the difference should a ballot arrive with insufficient postage. As of Thursday afternoon, the board has not been notified of any ballots arriving with a balance owed.

In the interim, Ponca encouraged shareholders who are not sure whether their ballot has enough postage to ask their local post office before dropping the envelope in the mail.

“No ballots will be returned because of missing postage,” Ponca said. “And as far as I know, nothing’s been turned back so far.”

Voters who received an absentee ballot without an outer return envelope are asked to fill out the completed ballot, put it in a standard envelope, write “Ballot” on the outside and mail it to the minerals council’s election office.

“They will be counted,” Ponca said. “It’s the only thing we could do from this end.”

The ballots in question were all part of the third and final batch of absentee requests sent to True Ballot for processing and distribution. The first two groups were large enough that they were handled by a mailing house, while the third was handled in-house by True Ballot.

“They know they’ve made a mistake and have apologized for any misunderstanding,” Ponca said.

Representatives from True Ballot could not be reached for comment on deadline. Based out of Bethesda, Maryland, the company was used by the Osage Nation Election Board for the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, but problems with its software delayed the release of the 2014 general election results.

Absentee voters who are still worried their ballot might not make it to Pawhuska in time still have the option to vote in person Monday at the Minerals Council’s lone polling place. The Minerals Council chambers in Pawhuska will be open to voters from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Any time you have an election and work with people, there’s going to be an error now and then,” Ponca said. “All you can do is try to correct it.”