Wednesday, November 3, 2010

AP report on glitches around the state

The Associated Press' Gillian Flaccus wrote this article about scattered problems and glitches around the state - most notably that many polling locations ran short on provisional ballot envelopes due to a higher rate of provisional voters than apparently was expected. Excerpts about problems in Santa Clara, Fresno, San Diego, and other California counties are featured below.

Midterm elections in California went off smoothly overall on Tuesday, with voters in Fresno County battling long lines due to a cut in the number of precincts and elections officials reporting spotty shortages of ballots and ballot envelopes in some precincts.

In Northern California's Santa Clara County, ink smudges were erased from 100,000 mail-in ballots because they appeared to confuse vote-tallying optical scanners, and in Los Angeles a watchdog group reported that two dozen residents received Spanish language robocalls and mailers instructing them to vote a day after Election Day.

U.S. Justice Department officials were investigating the robocall complaints from the watchdog group Election Protection, the group's Los Angeles hot line director Kathay Feng said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Mitchell, who is overseeing voting-related claims for Southern California, confirmed he had received "one or more" complaints, but was unable to comment on them.

Overall, Election Protection received 20,000 requests for assistance nationwide, with more than 3,400 of them coming from California voters, said Feng.

"I think that there were problems both at the institutional level as well as with human error and also a few sporadic instances of intentional voter intimidation," she said.

The Secretary of State's election results page crashed because of heavy Internet traffic, but by 8:45 p.m. PDT election officials were posting periodic summaries of results, said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman. The full site, with maps and other interactive features, remained down, she said.

In Fresno County, officials reduced the number of voting locations by nearly half due to budget cuts and saw long lines outside the remaining polling places. An activist group called Communities for a New California called upon the county to set up mobile polling stations and released photos showing long wait times at some precincts.

Victor Salazar, the county's registrar, said his office had Saturday voting at 20 locations the weekend before the election and sent postcards to registered voters alerting them of the changes.

Elsewhere, election officials reported temporary ballot or ballot envelope shortages at a handful of locations.

In San Diego, between 10 to 20 polling locations at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego, temporarily ran out of envelopes for provisional ballots because of the number of students showing up to vote, said Deborah Seiler, the county's registrar. The stations did not run out of regular ballots, she said.

Poll workers had voters write their information on slips of paper that were stapled to the ballots until the county could deliver several hundred more envelopes, Seiler said.

In Santa Barbara County, one polling station either on or near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus ran low on envelopes for provisional ballots, said Billie Alvarez, the chief deputy registrar.

"It's been a pretty steady turnout," she said.

In El Dorado County, several polling places also ran low on ballots but election staff replenished the supply, said Norma Gray, the assistant registrar.

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