GIRARD — Voters in the Pittsburg USD 250 bond election have expressed concerns to Crawford County officials conducting the election about the privacy of their ballots.

Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle on Tuesday said his office started receiving calls from concerned voters in the district on Monday. He wanted to assure voters their confidentiality would be maintained for the Jan. 28 election, which is being conducted by mail.

"People started calling expressing concerns about the privacy of their ballots," Pyle said during a morning meeting of the Crawford County Commissioners. That concern arose because the postage paid envelopes used to return the ballots require the voter to print their name, address and sign the outside of the envelope.

"Failure to sign will invalidate ballot," the back of of the envelope reads. Pyle also said the front of the envelope also has a place the voter can write their return address.

"We want to assure voters that only people in our office will be handling the ballots when they come in," he said. "We validate the ballots and compare the name on the envelope with the state voter database to make sure they are registered."

Pyle said the ballot will immediately be separated from the envelope by his office after validation takes place. In no case will anyone from the school district have anything to do with counting ballots, he said.

"I want to assure people they are the only person who will know how they voted," he said.

Commissioner Tom Moody said he felt confident the privacy of the voters will be maintained.

"If they follow proper protocol no one else should know how they voted," Moody said of voters. Pyle said his office has conducted three elections where all the ballots were mailed in with no issues of a loss of voter identity coming up.

Once the voter's name is checked against registered voting rolls the ballots will be placed in locked boxes until the close of balloting at noon on Jan. 28, he said.

"We've gotten a couple of ballots back already this morning," Pyle told the commissioners. He said there is a lot of interest in the Pittsburg USD 250's $67.6 million bond election.

"We're expecting to get back as many as 4,000 to 5,000 ballots and may have a turnout of as high as 50 percent," he said. In typical local elections Pyle has been involved with about 10 percent to 15 percent of registered voters took the time to cast ballots.

For the Pittsburg election the county clerk's office sent out about 11,780 mail ballots, Pyle said.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a draw down of about $6,500 in funds from an outside grant to Safehouse Crisis Center that the county serves as a pass-through agency for. The funds are to cover expenses at the center for October, November and December.

• Heard comments commending the efforts of the board and volunteers with the Crawford County Museum for recent efforts to improve the facility and exhibits.

• Asked Jim Emerson, county legal counselor, to check on the status of warranties for boilers the county purchased five or six years ago and which are already having operational issues, and:

• Tentatively set a work session for 9 a.m. Friday to review health insurance claims with representatives of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The commission will next meet 10 a.m. Friday in the commission chambers of the Crawford County Courthouse in Girard.

— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at melswick@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @mike_elswick.