"1 million votes still untallied in California, " Sacramento Bee. Ed's occasional clipping services.

From: Edmund R. Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Thu Feb 14 2008 - 09:42:39 CST

This story is taken from Sacbee / Politics.

1 million votes still untallied in California

By Dorothy Korber - dkorber@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, February 14, 2008

Super Tuesday seems long gone as the nation turns its hungry eyes to
the next round of presidential primaries – but for nearly a million
Californians, the votes they cast in the presidential primary are yet
to be counted.
This mountain of absentee and provisional ballots
– 960,000 of them by one estimate – equals the total number of
Democratic votes cast in Virginia this week and far exceeds Maryland
and the District of Columbia.
"In California, we're sitting on
almost a million votes still to be tallied – and meanwhile the pundits
are going on and on about states that don't have a million votes,
total," said Steve Weir, who keeps a running tally of "unprocessed
ballots" in his role as president of the California Association of
Clerks and Election Officials.
California's slow count is the
product of a couple of factors: the state's growing love affair with
absentee ballots paired with a high-voltage primary that drew
inexperienced voters who were enthusiastic but sometimes careless.
In Sacramento County, 90,000 ballots remain unprocessed, while 277,000 had been counted as of Wednesday afternoon.
Los
Angeles County has 200,000 unprocessed ballots – and that's not
counting the 50,000 presidential votes it discarded because a quarter
of the decline-to-state voters improperly marked the county's ballots.
Statewide,
Weir said, most of the uncounted votes – about 600,000 – are absentee
ballots turned in on election day. Still to be vetted, he reckons, are
400,000 provisional ballots, which typically are valid about 85 percent
of the time.
He estimates 10,000 more uncounted ballots are
damaged: shredded in the mail, mutilated in vote-counting machines, or
gummed up by sloppy voters who dribbled coffee or ketchup on their
absentee ballots. Election workers must pry them open, try to figure
out the voter's intention, and then create a fresh ballot to feed into
the machine.
No matter the obstacle, they're looking at a
deadline of March 4 to have the results of the more than 7.1 million
ballots cast in the state's presidential primary to California's
secretary of state.
A question almost as big as the pile of ballots is what difference they might make in the national presidential race.
"It's
not over till all the votes are counted," said Robert Stern, head of
the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies based in Los Angeles.
"To have a million votes not counted a week after the election is
extraordinary, especially in an election when people wanted so much for
their vote to count."
Stern has been keeping a sharp eye on the
evolving situation in California. In the great hunt for Democratic
Party delegates, he figures, all those uncounted California ballots
probably will translate into a mere handful of the state's 370
delegates that are pledged to primary results – seven at most, in
districts that were close to begin with (none of them in the Sacramento
region).
But, with Hillary Rodham Clinton (who garnered 2.3
million votes in California) and Barack Obama (with 1.9 million votes)
still battling for their party's nomination, every delegate is
hard-fought. On Wednesday, the Associated Press calculated that Obama's
delegate total stands at 1,275 to Clinton's 1,220.
Stern believes
the uncounted votes won't change results for state propositions. Nor
will they affect Republican primary results in California, since Mitt
Romney's decision to drop out made John McCain the clear winner.
The
national political scene is fluid and exciting, but down in the
trenches, California election workers are slogging through a herculean
task.
At Sacramento County election headquarters Wednesday,
dozens of workers diligently dealt with the details: checking and
double-checking signatures on absentee envelopes, validating write-in
candidates (few were valid), deciphering mutilated ballots and
carefully substituting clean ones.
Every ballot sent to a
precinct must be accounted for. Even the empty absentee ballot
envelopes – more than 80,000 of them – are documented, filed and saved
for at least 22 months.
Nineteen-year-old Leticia Valdez sat at a
big table, patiently checking mailed-in ballots to make sure precinct
numbers were recorded correctly. She sorted out damaged ballots,
including those with stray pen marks. She put write-ins in a separate
pile, to be checked by teams of other workers.
Valdez, one of 100 temporary workers brought in for the count, said she was surprised to learn how rigorous this process is.
"I didn't know there were so many steps," she said. "I figured we marked a ballot, it went through a machine, and that was it."

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