February 5, 2008 - High demand for democratic ballots sparks worries of shortages
Paper: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Title: High demand for democratic ballots sparks worries of shortages
Date: February 5, 2008
Author: MIKE CASSIDY column
An unusually high number of decline-to-state voters pulling Democratic Party ballots is causing some polling places in the Bay Area to run out of ballots while others are running low.
In at least one precinct in Palo Alto, the ballots are gone. A voter said a West San Jose polling place is running low and Obama campaign volunteers said at least three shipments of additional ballots were taken to Stanford University's only polling place. Meanwhile, in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, there were also reports of precincts running low on Democratic ballots .
''In order for this to happen, it takes an extraordinary voter turnout,'' Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir said.
Voters won't be turned away if their polling places don't have the ballot that they want, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters spokeswoman Elma Rosas said. In those precincts, voters can use plain paper copies of the ballots or the single touch-screen voting machine at that polling place.
Dan Lythcott-Haims had to use the touch-screen voting machine at his Palo Alto polling place, which had run out of ballots . Testing by Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office last year concluded that many electronic voting machines were vulnerable to hacking, which forced more than 20 counties -- including Santa Clara -- to switch back to paper ballots .
''It's obviously a little disconcerting because they decertified these machines,'' Lythcott-Haims said of his voting experience.
Rosas said voters can also use their sample ballot to cast their vote if the ballot they want is gone.
That's what polling workers in West San Jose asked registered Democrat Rosemary Bolger to do. Bolger said there will still be some Democratic ballots at the precinct on Corvette Avenue, but that workers told her to use her sample ballot instead. She did, but she isn't happy about it.
''I feel like I voted on a piece of tissue,'' Bolger said. ''They should have been prepared for this.''
The issue has become one for political bickering.
Volunteers for Barack Obama's campaign have been tracking problems with decline-to-state voters throughout the Bay Area. In a polling place in Woodside, for example, Obama volunteer Meena Harris said 12 decline-to-state voters were turned away.
Media reports quoted Obama supporter and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo calling for officials to look into reports of confusion over decline-to-state ballots in Los Angeles County, where voters are required to fill-in two bubbles -- one for the Democratic Party and a second for their candidate -- to cast their vote.
Hillary Clinton's state campaign officials fired back.
''It's just the height of cynicism for the Obama campaign to raise these issues at the last hour. This is nothing more than a cynical attempt to create confusion,'' said Ace Smith, Clinton's campaign director in California.
Non-partisan voters to the left and the right of the political spectrum have been drawn to the primary races -- the first time in a generation that Californian's vote could be the key to picking a party's nominee.
At a Campbell polling place, volunteer Michael Stamper said about 10 percent of people who came to vote asked for Republican ballots even though they are registered as non-partisanvoters. However, those voters weren't able to pick up a ballot for the party of their choice. Unlike the open-Democratic Party primary, the Republican Party does not allow non-party members to cast ballots in its nominating races.
With the most delegates at stake, candidates are closing vying for California voters. The California Field Poll projects that 56 percent of registered voters will cast ballots today -- the highest raw number of voters ever in a state presidential primary and the highest turnout percentage since the 1980 primary (63 percent).
''This historic election may very well be historic in terms of turnout,'' said Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Jesse Durazo.
Santa Clara County officials have projected that 437,250 voters, or 63 percent of those registered to vote, will cast their ballots in the primary -- just under two-thirds of them by mail.
If that prediction comes true, the Santa Clara County turnout would be a record in sheer number of primary voters, and the highest turnout since 1980, when 64 percent voted.
But it may be awhile before anyone knows the results. The switch back to paper has caused a shortage of the high-speed optical scanning equipment that's required to process ballots swiftly and could delay final results until Wednesday morning.
Record Number: 0802070134
Copyright (c) 2008 San Jose Mercury News