February 7, 2008 - County survives primary despite mishaps
Paper: Alameda Times-Star (CA)
Title: County survives primary despite mishaps
Date: February 7, 2008
Author: Chris Metinko, STAFF WRITER
Tens of thousands of provisional ballots sit in red bags to be counted by Registrar of Voters staff in the basement of the Renee C. Davidson courthouse on Wednesday. A sexy presidential primary, seemingly high turnout and lots of independents voting Democratic all contributed to some polling sites in Alameda County running out of provisional and Democratic ballots Tuesday.
Fourteen polling places in Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro and Fremont ran short of the two types of ballots Tuesday afternoon, said Guy Ashley, a spokesman with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office.
Ashley said the registrar's office had restocked the sites by late afternoon, in time for the evening rush.
"We have a massive number of provisional ballots we have to go through," Ashley said. "There are just stacks of provisionals right now we are working on."
According to Ashley, the county made sure there were enough ballots for all registered voters, but a large amount of voters requiring provisional ballots led to a shortage of those ballots .
In California, nonpartisan/decline-to-state voters were permitted to vote in the Democratic primary, but only registered Republicans were allowed to vote in the GOP primary.
The county gives out provisional ballots to people seeking to vote — but who are not listed on poll workers' voting logs — and the person's eligibility to vote is then checked against the registrar's databases.
Based on anecdotal evidence, Ashley said he expects some of the provisional ballots to be nullified because they were cast either by nonregistered voters, or by people voting contrary to their previously declared party affiliation.
The run on ballots caused some confusion. The registrar's office consulted with Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith as problems started to arise Tuesday. Smith checked with the state Administrative Office of the Courts in interpreting the Elections Code and advised County Counsel Richard Winnie to advise the registrar's office to keep open the polling places that ran out of ballots if anyone was waiting to vote.
Some earlier reports said the polling places were to remain open by court order, but Ashley said that was never the case. He added that he believed all locations had closed by 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Ashley said he did not hear stories of people being turned away when ballots ran low as some media reported. Poll workers were instructed to ask people to wait or let would-be voters vote on sample ballots , which would then be converted to real ballots .
While all voting locations also have a electronic voting machine for disabled voters, Ashley said the machines do not have provisional ballots , therefore voters not listed on the voting logs could not use the machines. Ashley said he expects it will take the registrar's office days, if not weeks, to sort through all the provisional ballots , and workers will be working round-the-clock to count them.
While final turnout numbers cannot come out until all mail-in and provisional ballots are counted, Ashley said it appears a large number of people came out to vote — even if some of those votes are not counted because they were not cast correctly.
Alameda County was not alone in having a low supply of ballots . Registrars in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties also reported requests from several precincts for extra ballots .
Record Number: 8194362
(c) 2008 Alameda Times-Star. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.