MONTEREY — On a tumultuous midterm Election Day, a half-read email sowed a full pot of confusion.
And it was this that led election workers to ask voters for their IDs.
But everyone legally cleared to vote, voted — and that is what counts, said an elections specialist from the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Elections Division.
After investigating a complaint that town election workers improperly asked residents to present their IDs upon voting, the state found that, ultimately, no one was turned away for lack of ID, and that Town Clerk Terry Walker had simply misinterpreted a state email sent on Election Day because she hadn't read the whole thing.
"The regulations do allow for requesting identification, but they also specify that voters cannot be denied the right to vote for failure to provide identification," said elections specialist Debra O'Malley.
O'Malley said that after clarifying voting procedures with Walker, "we do not expect that this will be an issue again."
The Elections Division began investigating the town's Nov. 6 procedures after receiving a complaint from a resident who had been asked to present an ID before she could vote. In her complaint, she had called this practice at the polls "misinformation," and an "invitation to bias." Another resident had called The Eagle with the same complaint, but did not file a complaint with the state.
Asking for an ID to vote is against state law, except under a few circumstances. Massachusetts is one of 16 states that, along with the District of Columbia, do not require voters to present any identification documents at the polls. Exceptions are voting for the first time, having been inactive, casting a provisional or challenged ballot, and if the election worker "has a reasonable suspicion" to ask for an ID.
In an email to the Elections Division, Walker said that, due to the tumult at the polls on Election Day, she had failed to read the division's entire email about how and when to ask a voter for an ID.
She said the midterm election was so politically "contentious" that it had scattered her attention, sown unprecedented anger at the Town Hall polling place, and caused her assistant to resign, short-staffing her office.
"People screaming at me and threatening me," she wrote.
The two primary sources of her troubles that day: a large number of inactive voters, as well as a group that was voting in the wrong town, she said.
"Ninety-eight voters were on my inactive list so there were a lot of angry voters," she wrote.
The bottom line is that all 469 residents legally cleared to vote did so, Walker said. The Elections Division agrees.
When it comes to asking voters for IDs, the trick is having a tight system, O'Malley suggested.
"You need to make sure you're doing it consistently and for consistent reasons," he said.
Heather Bellow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.