Some Manatee County voters complain sample ballot says they're not registered

MANATEE -- Some voters are complaining they are confused by a line at the bottom of a sample ballot sent out by the Manatee Supervisor of Elections Office that states they are no longer registered to vote by mail, Manatee Democratic Party Chairwoman Patty Benson said Thursday.

The line on the official sample ballot reads: "Important - Voters receiving this sample ballot are no longer registered for Vote By Mail (Absentee). Call today to update registration 941-741-3823."

One confused voter is Kathleen Kendall, a retiree who said she had already received her official vote-by-mail ballot when she then got the sample ballot in the mail.

"This says you are no longer registered to vote by mail," said Kendall, who called the elections office to inquire about her voting status.

After discussing the matter with three different people, she said she was told that she was registered to vote by mail and to disregard the

notice at the bottom of the sample ballot.

She called the matter "extremely disappointing," saying it's hard enough to get people out to vote without any added confusion.

"It's just wrong," she said.

The local GOP leader took a different view than the Democrats.

Kathy King, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Manatee County, said she has not received a single complaint from any voter about the sample ballot.

"As far as we know, things are going smoothly. We've had no complaint on this or any other issue," she said Thursday.

Manatee elections supervisor Mike Bennett said sample ballots were only sent to people who had not registered to vote by mail.

The elections office mailed out 115,031 sample ballots from Monday to Friday last week, he said.

Kendall had requested a vote-by-mail ballot Oct. 1, and the list of voters who were supposed to get sample ballots went to the printer in late September, he said.

Bennett described it as an "overlap" of a couple of weeks.

"In that period of time, we probably processed close to 7,000 requests for vote by mail. So that happens," he said, adding his office has not been deluged with phone calls from those wondering if they were still registered.

"You would have thought that if you had a ballot in your hand, it's probably a pretty good sign you're registered to vote," Bennett said Thursday.

Domestic vote-by-mail ballots were sent out in the mail Sept. 30, according to a schedule sheet from the elections office.

The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Early voting for the general election begins Saturday and continues through Nov. 1.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election was Oct. 6.

For information, call the elections office at 941-741-3823, visit votemanatee.com, or go in person to the elections office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.