June 7, 2008 - Vote count goes better
Paper: Sun, The ( San Bernardino, CA)
Title: Vote count goes better
Date: June 7, 2008
Author: Robert Rogers, Staff Writer
With more counting machines at the ready and a sparse turnout, the county registrar of voters cranked out results of the June 3 elections at a clip similar to that of surrounding counties.
County Registrar Kari Verjil called her office's performance Tuesday excellent, despite some criticism, but conceded that a light turnout and a high ratio of vote-by-mail ballots combined to make this year's election easier to handle than most.
"This was an opportunity to prepare for November's general election," Verjil said. "We worked on perfecting our processes, which is important because we anticipate a very high voter turnout election in November."
As of Friday, the number of ballots cast in the county on Election Day was 52,900, or just 7 percent of registered voters. Vote-by-mail ballots exceeded votes at the polls, with 71,357 coming in before Election Day.
Altogether, 57 percent of the votes came by mail, not an unprecedented ratio, Verjil said. But it lightened the registrar's load. Only 16.5 percent of registered voters participated.
In the February primary, about three times more votes were cast. The number of voters should only grow in November, when the presidential election and a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage will headline the ballot.
When compared to the June 3 election performances in Riverside and Orange Counties, San Bernardino County compares favorably, showing an improvement over prior years, which were marred by slow results and other complaints.
In Orange County, officials counted 104,806 ballots June 3, or about double the take in San Bernardino County. But only 3,993 were paper ballots, said Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley, with the rest being the easier-to-count electronic variety.
Web site updates were constant in Orange County, a stark difference from San Bernardino County.
"We posted updates of our precinct voting every 30 minutes," Kelley said.
In San Bernardino County, totals were updated three times, at 8:30 p.m., 11 p.m. and 12:46 a.m., Verjil said. Verjil reasoned more updates would slow her staff, leading to a much later unofficial final result time.
"More updates would not be in the interest of a timely result," Verjil said.
In Riverside County, the first Web count was posted at 8:01 p.m., said Registrar Barbara Dunmore. The final tally was logged at 1:55 a.m.
The Orange County Registrar's Office posted five updates using six counting machines, compared with San Bernardino County's 10.
Some say the San Bernardino County registrar still underperformed.
Neil Derry, a critic of Verjil's office who bested incumbent Supervisor Dennis Hansberger on June 3, said regular Web updates should be posted as they're counted.
"That's the way it should be," he said.
Verjil disagrees, stressing that accuracy and the timeliness of the final count could be reduced if more attention were devoted to updates.
A lack of updates wasn't the only criticism.
Workers at Davidson Elementary School in San Bernardino reported a box labeled "Ballot box" was left full at the polling place for 24 hours after the final results. Verjil said the box contained only unused envelopes and other stationery.
Record Number: 9517383
(c) 2008 The Sun. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, In