More than 2,000 voters on the Big Island were surprised to find a message from the county elections office Thursday informing them that their general election ballot had been received and was being counted.

Problem was, none of them had received a ballot in the mail let alone voted and sent it back.

Hawaii County elections officials said Thursday the mistake involved a new ballot tracking system — called BallotTrax — that is being used statewide this year. Voters who sign up for the service can manually look up their ballot’s status online, or they can opt to receive notifications of their ballot’s updates through texts, email, or phone.

BallotTrax’s messages are automated, going out based on data that each county elections office uploads. In this case, the Big Island’s elections office accidentally uploaded data from August’s primary election, which is why voters were falsely notified that their ballots had been received.

Hawaii County elections officials sent this correction to voters on the Big Island Thursday shortly after mistakenly telling many of them they had already voted. Hawaii Democratic Party

The erroneous message was sent to 2,379 voters at 3:50 p.m. Thursday, saying that their ballots had “been received, validated, and accepted for counting” despite that not actually being the case.

Hawaii County Clerk Jon Henricks said a corrected message was sent to affected voters at 4:44 p.m.

Henricks emphasized that the error did not affect the actual counting process.

“It was a communications issue,” he said.

“We obviously regret that this occurred,” said Henricks. “This is not a small thing for us.”

He said the focus now is to process what happened and work with both BallotTrax and the Hawaii State Elections Office to prevent errors like this from happening again.

Nedielyn Bueno, who coordinates voter services for the state elections office, said this means implementing a better system for naming data files of ballots. Because BallotTrax is contracted through the statewide office — rather than just through each individual county — these changes should help prevent errors at the other county offices too, she said.

None of the other counties reported experiencing similar messaging errors.

The state elections office doesn’t contract directly with BallotTrax, instead going through another service called Hart Intercivic, which provides election infrastructure like machines and ballots.

Before BallotTrax, the state office let voters track their ballots through one of their other vendors, notifying them when their ballots were received. BallotTrax is greater in scope, allowing voters to also see when their ballots are sent out and whether there any errors with things like signature verification.

A little over 110,000 ballots have been sent out so far to Big Island voters. These voters were expected to start receiving their ballots in the mail on Friday.

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