Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Riverside County response disputes grand jury findings on polling places

The jury described problems with poll worker training and ballot box security

Riverside County elections officials are disputing the conclusions of a grand jury report that found a broken ballot box seal and other polling-place problems during a 2015 election.
In the county’s formal response, officials said the ballot box in question still had one seal intact, and they defended polling place addresses that the grand jury had said were inaccurate.
They also defended staffing at polling places.
The county Board of Supervisors approved the response last week.
The grand jury, 19 citizens sworn by a judge, investigates public agencies’ inner workings and suggests improvements.
A jury report released in May was based on polling place observations during a Nov. 3, 2015, election for local offices, including city council seats in Perris and Norco and seats on the Riverside Unified School District board.
In their report, jurors said that at two polling locations, a blue ballot box had one of two red plastic seals broken and the box wasn’t locked.
In the response filed by the county Registrar of Voters Office, officials said state law does not require ballot boxes to be locked, although at least one seal must be intact.
“The ballot box cannot be opened without breaking both seals,” the response read. “It would be impossible to tamper with the proper ballots if one seal is still intact.”
According to the jury’s report, voting materials also listed inaccurate locations for three polling locations in Perris – City Hall, the Hunt Club Apartments and Lake Perris Fairgrounds.
The fairgrounds, which cover 11 acres, had no address at the entrance or on any building, the jury found. Fairgrounds lights were not turned on, creating an unsafe environment, the report read.
According to the response, the addresses on the voting materials matched addresses provided by the city of Perris, the apartment complex and the fairgrounds property manager. In the future, more specific instructions will be given for polling places at the complex and fairgrounds, the response read.
The jury also found inexperience and inconsistent training among poll workers and that precinct captains were not trained to document issues accurately on election officers’ comment sheets.
The Registrar’s Office replied that all polling places had experienced workers and that all training classes have the same curriculum. “Our records do not show any polling places (on Nov. 3, 2015) staffed with all new poll workers,” the response read.
In the response, officials said more attention to the election officer comment sheet will be provided in training.
The jury also found fault with equipment that provides audio guidance for voters with vision problems or poor literacy. At one polling place, the audio control box and headphones were still in storage, the jury reported.
In the response, county officials said all polling places have signs advising voters that “Accessible Voting Units” are available upon request.
“The voter is handed the audio control box and headphones and when their specially programmed voter card is inserted, it will place the AVU in audio mode,” the response read.
The county had 90 days from the grand jury report’s to issue a response, which usually concludes the matter unless a future jury wants to write a follow-up report.
August 3, 2016
The Press Enterprise
By Jeff Horseman

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