Agreement nears on vote handling steps

Riverside County and the U.S. Postal Service are close to an agreement that could help prevent the kind of election night snafu that led to the misplacement of more than 12,000 mail-in ballots during the June 8 primary, officials said.

Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore and local Postal Service officials have reached a tentative understanding as to how absentee ballots will be handled in the days leading up to the Nov. 2 general election, according to county Executive Officer Bill Luna.

Luna told county supervisors on Tuesday that a formal agreement is pending approval by Postal Service administrators in Washington, D.C.

During the June 8 primary, 12,563 absentee ballots ended up at a Moreno Valley post office and were not discovered until they were shipped to a Riverside post office – the day after the election.

State law prohibited the registrar from including the misplaced ballots in the county’s final election tally. However, the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee and several residents filed a lawsuit seeking to have the votes certified, arguing the affected voters had sent their ballots on time and were effectively being disenfranchised.

A judge agreed, ordering that the ballots be counted.

The snafu prompted the board to order a review of what transpired, resulting in a 45-page report by the Executive Office.

A breakdown in communication between the registrar’s office and the Postal Service was among the reasons cited for the election night mix-up.

Luna said two additional Sequoia 400C Optech central ballot scanners had been purchased, per the board’s direction, at $110,000 apiece, which will contribute to a speedier count in November.

According to Luna, 60 ballot drop-off sites – mainly libraries and city halls – have been designated and will be open by early October.

Luna said there will be “transport teams” at each of the county’s 22 ballot collection centers to expedite deliveries to the central tabulating room in Riverside, and “round-the-clock operations” have been authorized at the registrar’s office in the week before and after the election.

The estimated cost of the increased staffing was not immediately available.

One Response to "Agreement nears on vote handling steps"

  1. eyesonyou   September 4, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    With 60 drop-off points, that means everytime someone comes around to pick up ballots, TWO people have to be involved. It’s required by law to ensure the integrity and security of the ballots. There should be a sign-off sheet where both individuals enter the time and initial the fact they were there and picked up "X" number of ballots – yes, it should show if they picked up 2 or 22 ballots. Otherwise there is no accountability for that location, and ballots could simply be "lost" along the way back to the office. Small details but critical to a secure chain of custody and required to ensure the integrity of our electoral system.

    Reply

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