November 17, 2007 - PRIMARY BALLOTS COULD BE DELAYED: PRINTING DEADLINES AT RISK WHILE PETITIONS ON INDIAN GAMING VERIFIED
Paper: Press Democrat, The ( Santa Rosa, CA)
Title: PRIMARY BALLOTS COULD BE DELAYED: PRINTING DEADLINES AT RISK WHILE PETITIONS ON INDIAN GAMING VERIFIED
Date: November 17, 2007
State and local elections officials fear that some ballots may not be printed in time for the Feb. 5 presidential primary election because of a looming battle over tribal casinos.
Counties have until Dec. 4 to verify signatures on petitions seeking a vote to overturn state compacts allowing four Southern California Indian tribes to greatly expand their gambling operations.
If they qualify, a 20-day public review period follows. That means a ballot wouldn't be prepared until Dec. 24, more than two weeks after the legal deadline for mailing the first ballots for the Feb. 5 election.
``That would screw up any election,'' Marin County Registrar Elaine Ginnold said.
Ballots for overseas and military voters are supposed to be sent Dec. 7. Ballots for other absentee voters are supposed to be mailed Jan. 7.
``State and local officials are all on the same side of this. We are caught between a rock and a hard place of following the law and the calendar,'' said Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state.
While elections officials expect to work around the tight deadline to get ballots to the majority of voters, there is no way, they said, to get complete ballots to overseas and military voters in time.
Part of the problem, officials said, was the state's decision to move the primary from June to February, tightening deadlines for other democratic processes like referendum votes.
On California's ballot will be the presidential primary, three propositions on transportation funding, community college funding and legislative term limits, and the potential three referendum votes on tribal gaming.
Sonoma and Marin election officials said they would send whatever ballots they could overseas on Dec. 7 and most likely follow it up with a more complete ballot when the casino referendum are sorted out.
`` The worst-case scenario is that an additional ballot is sent to military personnel with the referenda information,'' said Gloria Colter, Sonoma County's assistant voter registrar.
Absentee voters may receive multiple ballots as well.
Though Colter said Sonoma County elections officials anticipated having all vote-by-mail ballots complete and mailed on time, Ginnold said she would send ballots without the referendums, followed by a second ballot if they qualify.
``We would never get the ballots printed in time if we waited for the referenda,'' she said. ``To delay printing the ballots would be too dangerous.''
But Winger said counties could still hope for an earlier resolution.
``It's a question of if the signature verifications will come in ahead of schedule. We don't anticipate it will push that far,'' Winger said. ``Based on how many counties have already reported ahead of schedule, we expect to be wrapping this up shortly.''
Author: LAURA NORTON THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Copyright (c) 2007 The Press Democrat ( Santa Rosa, CA)