"New trends plague polls, " Sacramento Bee, Ed's occasional clipping service

From: Edmund R. Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Thu Feb 07 2008 - 09:54:52 CST

Hello All:

    Certainly not as comprehensive as Arthur's excellent posting but still a useful summary.

Thanks, Ed Kennedy

This story is taken from Sacbee / News.

New trends plague polls
Absentee deluge, crossover voters add to glitches
By Bobby Caina Calvan - bcalvan@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, February 7, 2008

You know you have election day problems when the president of the
California Voter Foundation is turned away from her Sacramento polling
place because officials can't find her name on the precinct's rolls.
Alexander's frustrating experience at Crocker Middle School was
emblematic of the glitches plaguing the election process in Tuesday's
statewide presidential primary. Precincts ran low on ballots, poll
workers gave voters bum advice, and the final results won't be known
for days.
A pair of trends fueled many of the problems: the
growing popularity of absentee ballots, and the unprecedented number of
voters registering as "decline-to-state" who then crossed over to vote
for Democratic candidates.
"It's a giant wake-up call that we're
not prepared as a state or at the local level to cope with 3 million
decline-to-state voters who will make decisions, sometimes late in the
process," said Mark Baldassare, director of research for the Public
Policy Institute of California. "We also have to be ready for a lot of
mail ballots dropped off at the last minute – and it seems we weren't
prepared for that, either."
And the 2008 election season has just begun.
are in this long year with three elections, but I think we got the
hardest one out of the way," said Jill LaVine, Sacramento County's
registrar of voters.
In addition to November's general election,
Californians will go to the polls in June for a slate of local, state
and congressional races.
Elections officials are bracing for more
confusion from crossover voting because, unlike in Tuesday's
presidential primary, next time the state's Republican party will allow
nonpartisans to request a GOP ballot.
"There are always lessons to be learned and things to improve," LaVine said.
doubt, many election officials across the state share the sentiment as
counties were caught off-guard by the surge of crossover voters –
despite early signs of historic voter interest.
In June 2006,
when nonpartisans were also allowed to cross over into the Democratic
or American Independent primaries, an insignificant number did so –
with a mere 1.27 percent of decline-to-state voters requesting a
Democratic ballot.
How many nonpartisan voters crossed over Tuesday is still unclear, but huge numbers apparently did so.
Costa County Clerk- Recorder Steve Weir – who is president of the
California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials – spent much
of his own election day delivering Democratic ballots to polling places
that had run dry.
An unprecedented number of mail-in voters also
took part in Tuesday's primary. By election day, some 50,000 absentee
ballots had been received by Sacramento County elections officials –
including 11,000 that arrived in the mail on Tuesday.
Those numbers don't include the 32,000 that were dropped off at polling places.
Wednesday, election workers plunged into the time-consuming task of
sorting the uncounted absentee ballots. Signatures would have to be
verified and envelopes opened before the actual ballots could be
The county also reported an unusually high number of
provisional ballots, about 8,000, given to voters whose eligibility to
vote could not immediately be confirmed.
One way or another, at least half of Sacramento County's registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election.
too early to calculate turnout statewide, according to the secretary of
state's office, because most counties still have not calculated how
many ballots remain to be counted.
Because of high turnout and
crossover voting, some Sacramento County precincts ran short of
Democratic ballots, including polling places in Orangevale, Natomas and
central Sacramento.
Yolo County ran into the same problem – and a
few Yolo polling places also ran low on Republican ballots, which
initially mystified County Clerk Freddie Oakley.
voters weren't allowed to vote for Republican candidates this election,
so Oakley figured that sending each precinct one ballot for every
registered Republican would surely cover the need.
"Knock me over
with a feather," Oakley said Wednesday. "Suddenly, we were running out
of Republican ballots. Now I think that a number of Republican voters
surrendered their absentee ballot at their polling places and requested
a fresh ballot.
"Maybe they had marked the first one and later decided to change."
Placer County Registrar Jim McCauley was patting himself on the back Wednesday for sidestepping such problems.
had no problem with having enough ballots – it's not rocket science,"
McCauley said. "I ordered 140 percent Democratic ballots for every
precinct, in anticipation that there could be a large crossover of
independents choosing to vote Democratic. The key is having a good feel
for your county – I'd rather have extra ballots left over than run out."
Ballots cost money – 55 cents each in Sacramento County, a fact LaVine kept in mind.
"When will we ever see a hundred-percent turnout?" LaVine asked. "Why print more than we need? We're in a no-win situation."
chronic problem Tuesday was the inconsistency from county to county in
how decline-to-state voters were informed of their right to cross over
to another party. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is calling
for legislation that will standardize what poll workers tell such
When she showed up at Crocker Middle School, Kim
Alexander's election day frustration stemmed not from broad political
trends but garden-variety human error.
"The poll worker couldn't
find me on the rolls and asked if I wanted to vote a provisional
ballot," Alexander said. "I said no. So I went out to my car, found my
sample ballot with the polling place address, and brought it back in. I
said, 'Let's look again and see if I'm there.' And sure enough, I was."
Alexander said, a friend drove up who had been turned away from the
same polling place. "She was all frantic after being sent on a wild
goose chase trying to find another polling place – that didn't exist."
experiences don't bode well for voter confidence, suggests Alexander,
who heads the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation based in
"I think any time a voter arrives at a polling place
and finds something unexpected, it's disconcerting," she said. "When
people vote smoothly, they're confident in the results. When there's a
problem, they begin to question the whole process."

Go to: Sacbee / Back to story

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