Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mendocino County Grand jury calls for 100% mail-in voting

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 06/24/2010 12:00:15 AM PDT

Better proof-reading, replacing polls with mail-in ballots countywide and more use of the county website are among the 2010 grand jury's recommendations for the Mendocino County Registrar of Voters Office.

The GJ on Monday released the report, "And the Vote Goes to...: 2009-2010 Mendocino County Election Report" after observing ballot collection and transfer to county elections staff during the November 2009 general election and the June 2010 primary election.

The GJ noted there were problems with the official ballots given out during the June primary, and the public reported "numerous typographical errors, spacing anomalies and content omissions" on the pre-election sample ballots for the same election.

The registrar has contracted with the same private vendor for the past eight years to translate, press-check, print and mail the primary election sample ballots, according to the report.

"All 24 different sample ballot pamphlets were mailed directly by the vendor with only a cursory county press-check," the report states, noting that county staff proof-read the PDF files before sending them to the vendor.

The Registrar's Office responded via radio and press releases immediately, but "there was no immediate posting on the county website," according to the report.

One corrected sample ballot was sent to each household. The reprinting "may result in mail-in ballots being received before accurate sample ballot pamphlets," according to the report.

In addition, some voters got the wrong party affiliation on their official ballots, "resulting in their receiving an incorrect primary election ballot and having to take corrective action," the GJ report states.

The GJ recommended "in the future, the sample ballot pamphlets and official ballots be thoroughly press checked by the registrar of voters' staff prior to mailing."

Looking into the process of placing candidate statements on the sample ballots in the November election, the GJ also found that the cost of printing, handling and translating candidates' statements sometimes exceeds the deposit the county charges candidates.

"The county has not always collected the actual costs from candidates," the report states.

The GJ recommends that the registrar collect unpaid candidates' fees within six months of an election and publish a list of uncollected fees in local media outlets "in the same manner as tax-default notices."

The GJ also recommends that candidates' statements be posted on the county website.

The GJ found that establishing a polling place "far exceeds the cost of mail-in ballots," and recommended that the Board of Supervisors petition the California Secretary of State to use vote-by-mail ballots for all of Mendocino County.

"Considering the high percentage of mail-in ballots being used now, it would be cost-effective to move the county to a total mail-in ballot system," the report states. "While the GJ understands that many people enjoy the social aspects of the local polling stations, the harsh reality is that the county budget is in dire straits."

The GJ notes there are 247 voting precincts, and only 25 polling places, and that moving to an all mail-in ballot system would reduce payroll cost, rent and equipment transportation and maintenance.

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