Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mendocino County grand jury recommends faster election results

While it praised the Mendocino County Registrar of Voters for its accuracy in reporting election results, the Mendocino County grand jury is recommending that it offer those results much more quickly.
“Due to changes in voting procedure, 80 percent of voters are now obliged to vote by mail, (causing) the actual final tally to be delayed for up to 30 days after an election, a delay that both the public and elected officials find unacceptable,” the grand jury writes in a report released this month called “Election Redux.”
“It is clear to the Grand Jury that election counting procedures need to change,” the report continues. “This will either be forced on the county by public opinion or the implementation of state law.”
After receiving a “number of complaints about the election observation process during the June 7, 2016, Primary Election and about the continual lack of timeliness for the reporting of election results,” the 2016-17 Mendocino County grand jury investigated the elections process again.
And while the latest investigation revealed to the grand jury that the county’s “Registrar of Voters is determined to ensure accuracy and accountability for election results,” it did find that a “lack of timely results frustrates candidates and voters.
“For example, 21,700 mail-in ballots were available for counting prior to the Nov. 6, 2016, Election Day,” the grand jury notes. “(But) while the Registrar had 10 days prior to Election Day to count them, approximately only 6,000 were counted by Election night.”
The grand jury also found that:
• Twenty seven percent, or 10,029 mail-in ballots, were dropped off at a polling place on Election Day, indicating that some voters may prefer to vote at polling places.
• The Office of the Registrar of Voters follows its established procedures rigidly.
• The Registrar of Voters voiced a willingness to change but has not implemented any substantive changes.
• To achieve more timely results, members of the Board of Supervisors stated a willingness to dedicate resources to improvement, including increasing the budget for hiring more election workers and reserving more physical space for ballot counting.
• The procedures for processing election results are labor intensive and lack adequate modern data processing.
• Observation has been improved, but observers could not hear the proceedings or view the signature comparisons.
Therefore, the grand jury recommends:
• The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors review Senate Bill 450 (which essentially converts all ballots to mail-in ballots, yet allows each county to opt in or out of the provisions of the bill, which eliminates precinct polling places and creates voting centers, some of which are open 10 days prior to the election) and either adopt the provisions of the bill or change the current ballot counting procedures for more timely results.
• Regardless of the adoption of the provisions of SB 450, the Registrar of Voters requests updated, more efficient equipment and software.
• The Registrar of Voters hires and trains more workers to provide more timely results.
• The Registrar of Voters updates election results weekly before the issuance of the state required certified results.
• The Registrar of Voters provides training and outreach education instructing voters how to correctly cast a vote with the aim to reduce the number of spoiled and provisional ballots.
• The Registrar of Voters install microphones so that observers can hear the counting proceedings between staff and implement a procedure to allow observers to view signature comparisons.
June 30, 2017
Ukiah Daily Journal 
By Daily Journal staff

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