August 4, 2006 - Elections office clarifying changes
Paper: Ukiah Daily Journal (CA)
Title: Elections office clarifying changes
Date: August 4, 2006
Amid complaints and confusion from voters across Mendocino County following the primary election in June, the elections office has stepped up its voter education in hopes of a smooth November election.
On Tuesday, County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder Marsha Wharff released an analysis of absentee voting in the form of a press release, one of many that are expected to follow in the weeks leading up to the election.
"They will explain things such as when ballots will be mailed, why (absentees) are still secret as well as broadcast any changes that are made," Wharff said. "We want people to feel secure with how it's working."
The release this week lists percentages for voter turnout, differentiating between mail only precincts and those with polling places. Wharff said she released the figures to allow citizens to draw their own conclusions about the recent reorganization of precincts that left the majority of the county voting by mail.
In the reorganization, precincts with more than one special district were eliminated, increasing the number of precincts from 274 to 388, Wharff said. Then, to ease the transition for operating federally required TouchScreen machines at polling places, precincts with fewer than 250 voters were changed to mail ballot only, eliminating 28 polling places.
"We felt by having less (polling places) we would have a better chance of successfully deploying them as is required by federal law, and we were successful," Wharff said.
"There were some people who said, You took our polling place away and now less people are voting,' and obviously that's not true," Wharff said, citing 10 polling precincts where absentee voters outnumbered those at the polls.
On the contrary, a greater percentage of mail only precincts had fewer than half of the registered voters turn out than in actual polling precincts. Wharff expects that the participation level for absentee voters will increase for the Nov. 7 general election since approximately half of the voters who requested absentee ballots asked to be permanent absentee voters.
Roni McFadden of Willits had been voting by absentee for the last few years after a previous consolidation turned her precinct to mail only, but did not vote in the June primary.
While three other relatives received their ballots at her address, McFadden's and her husband's never arrived. She said she contacted the election office and was told that their file had been marked inactive because a piece of mail the office sent them was returned by the post office as undeliverable.
"If voting by mail was a new thing for us I would have understood a little better, but we've been voting by mail for years," McFadden said.
McFadden said the office's attempt to inform voters about the upcoming election won't help her since she has been voting absentee for some time, but thinks it might be useful for those who are new to the system.
"It will help people that didn't know where to go or know about the ballot," McFadden said. "Hopefully then they'll be watching their mail for the ballot and not throw it away with all the junk mail that comes around election time."
Katie Mintz can be reached at email@example.com.
Author: KATIE MINTZ The Daily Journal
(c) 2006 Ukiah Daily Journal. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.