Friday, June 22, 2012

Solano County grand jury: Registrar of Voters office lacking

BY MELISSA MURPHY - The Reporter, Vacaville, CA

The Solano County's Registrar of Voters office falls short in several areas, according to a report by the Solano County grand jury.
Lacking adequate office space and a Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee, the office is in need of several improvements, grand jurors concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The report noted that sensitive areas were not adequately controlled and monitored, supervisors outnumbered the technicians in the office and that some policies and procedures need to be written, some need to be updated and all need to be better organized.

Deputy Registrar of Voters John Gardner said the department is already working on a response to the report. He added that since last fall, when he was hired, he's been working diligently to improve the voting process.

"We're hopefully eliminating the human errors going forward," he said about adding more oversight to the process.

"It's always good to have an outside independent review," he said of the report. "This gives us a chance to improve."

Gardner explained that the primary election earlier this month was "very smooth" since the department is already making necessary improvements. Grand jurors investigated during last November's election.

Among its 25 findings, the grand jury noted:

* That budget constraints and the elimination of two election technician positions not only impacted staff workload, but also left the organization with seven supervisors for three technicians;

* That the department had no formal training plan or program designed to develop or improve technical abilities of the staff;

* That a processing error resulted in candidates being left off the November 2011 ballot. Because of this error, the county incurred approximately $30,000 in costs for supplemental ballots and voting materials;

* That individual staff reviewed and repaired vote-by-mail ballots without a second opinion/approval, as required by policy; and

* That the "vault room" used by the Registrar of Voters Office to store ballots and the warehouse to store election material and equipment were not adequately protected. A concern regarding vault security was also expressed in the 2008 report on ballot handling commissioned by the county.

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