June 3, 2006 - Registrar of Voters gets complaints
Copyright 2006 The San Diego Union-Tribune
The San Diego Union-Tribune
June 3, 2006 Saturday
SECTION: LOCAL; Pg. B-1
LENGTH: 909 words
HEADLINE: Registrar of Voters gets complaints;
Absentee ballots, party affiliation and moving polling places
BYLINE: Leslie Wolf Branscomb, STAFF WRITER
The election hasn't even occurred, and already there are complaints.
One man says his ballot was sent to his mother-in-law's house, where he's never lived, after he moved to Las Vegas.
Others are complaining that their absentee ballots arrived too late to mail back.
A frustrated poll worker is threatening to resign but can't reach anyone at the Registrar of Voters to tell.
And one voter says he meant to register as an independent nonpartisan, but got an absentee ballots for the "American Independent" party.
Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas' message: We're working on it.
As to Patrick Moir's complaint that a ballot in his name turned up at his mother-in-law's house, Haas said it was probably because Moir filed a change-of-address form with the post office.
People are supposed to re-register when they move within the county. But the registrar's office also gets address change data from the postal service and will change your address for you if you're a permanent absentee voter, as Moir was.
Moir registered to vote in 2004 in Carmel Mountain Ranch. A year ago, he moved to Las Vegas for a new job and registered there. Before he left, he had his mail forwarded to his in-laws' house in San Carlos because he didn't have a new address at the time.
He never lived there and didn't register there, yet got a ballot for the candidates in the district where his in-laws live.
Haas said Moir's in-laws probably received a post card asking for confirmation that he'd moved there. "We update the address automatically and send them a new voter registration card," Haas said. "Most people just throw the card away."
Cindy Weigle of Rancho Peñasquitos got her absentee ballot at the correct address -- on Friday -- and she's pretty mad about it.
"For a June 6 election, to get them on June 2 doesn't give anyone much time to vote," Weigle said. She's leaving on a trip, and had it come one day later she wouldn't have been able to cast her vote, she said.
What's more, Weigle's daughter in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo also got her ballot at her parents' home Friday. She probably won't be able to vote and get the ballot back to the registrar's office by the 8 p.m. deadline Tuesday unless her mother sends the ballot by Federal Express, both ways, Weigle said.
There were also some complaints that Spanish-speaking absentee voters didn't receive their ballots until this week.
The state Elections Code says absentee ballots will be mailed out starting 29 days before an election, but there's no guarantee you'll get it then.
Haas said ballots in English are mailed to registered permanent absentee voters first. Foreign-language ballots are mailed after that, as the envelopes are hand-stuffed with ballots in both English and the language requested.
Later requests for absentee ballots for a specific election are processed last.
Though this might not help out-of-town college students, absentee ballots don't have to be mailed back -- they can also be turned in at any polling place on Election Day, or at the Registrar of Voters Office, 5201 Ruffin Road, in Kearny Mesa.
As for the "American Independent" ballot, the lesson is to be careful about which box you check when registering. The Chula Vista voter admits he checked "American Independent" when he meant to indicate he's an independent voter, not affiliated with any party. In that case, the correct designation is "decline to state."
Voters may request a ballot for whatever party they want at their polling place on Election Day, or at the registrar's office from today through Election Day.
Marilyn Marx lives on Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego and was displeased to find she won't be voting anymore at the historic Berkeley ferry, docked at the waterfront Maritime Museum.
Since the primary election has been moved from April to June, it's a problem for the museum to host a polling place during its peak tourist season.
So the polling place for waterfront residents was moved to Perkins Elementary School in Barrio Logan, 1.6 miles from Marx's home. "I've always been able to walk to the polls," Marx said. "To me, it's a disincentive to the voters."
Haas said his office tried unsuccessfully to find someplace closer for Marina district voters. He estimates 90 percent of voters drive to the polls and pointed out school parking is free.
"In fact, when we were searching for places downtown, we got a ticket, because there's no place to park," Haas said. "We're going to have to look at that issue. As more and more people move downtown, it's going to get tougher."
Then there's Don McLean, precinct inspector for the polling place at the First Christian Church in Fallbrook. He had concerns about voting materials that didn't match numbers he'd been given. He tried to call the number the registrar's office gave him to report problems.
But the recorded message says: "Inspector hotlines are now closed." The recording refers callers to another number, which has been changed. A third number is the registrar's main line: another recording.
"I would resign if I could reach a live person," McLean said.
Live operators will be at the registrar's office today through Election Day to answer questions: (858) 565-5800.
Voter's don't have to wait until Tuesday to cast their ballots. The Registrar of Voters will be open today, tomorrow and Monday. The office at 5201 Ruffin Road, Suite I, in Kearny Mesa, will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days. For more information, call (858) 565-5800.