TROY — It could have been Ovama or Ofama. Or even Olama. But with one "s" the Rensselaer County Board of Elections turned a single wrong letter into a national embarrassment Friday.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's last name is spelled "Osama" on some 300 absentee ballots mailed out this week to voters in Rensselaer County hilltowns.
Is it a Freudian slip, intentional gaffe or a mistake? Voters are sure to have opinions, and one politician pointed out that the letters "s" and "b" are not exactly keyboard neighbors.
"Of all the letters to hit by mistake," County Democratic Chairman Tom Wade said.
"Unfortunately it is a mistake which negatively impacts our Democratic candidate for president."
The typo was first reported Friday on timesunion.com, and quickly grabbed national attention.
"It was crazy, everybody across the country called," said Edward McDonough, the county's Democratic elections commissioner. He said calls came in from The New York Times, the New York Post, Daily News, Wall Street Journal and Court TV. McDonough said he was one of the people who received a misspelled absentee ballot at home, and he didn't even notice it.
Elections officials on both sides of the aisle insist a simple typographical error caused the national embarrassment. "It was a mistake innocently done," McDonough said. "We catch almost everything."
Republican officials were apologetic. "We have three different staff members who proof these things and somehow the typo got by us," said Republican Commissioner Larry Bugbee. "We really apologize."
On Row 1A, Barack Obama's name is spelled Barack Osama — a name bearing an unfortunate resemblance to terror mastermind Osama bin Laden - but further down on the Working Families line it is spelled correctly.
The Obama camp took the controversy in stride. "We're glad officials are working to correct this error and we assume it won't happen again," Obama spokesman Blake Zeff said.[Source: Bob Gardinier, Times Union]