Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Registrar of Voters Office continues tally of thousands of uncounted absentee ballots

LAKEPORT – While the unofficial results have been in since early Wednesday morning, the tallies for local offices in this week's primary are far from final, with thousands of ballots yet to be counted – a fact that could affect the closest races.


On Friday, county Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley began counting unprocessed vote-by-mail – or absentee – ballots as well as provisional ballots.


All told, Fridley said there were 3,081 unprocessed absentee ballots, 148 votes cast on eSlate election machines and 537 provisionals – 5 of which also were cast on the eSlate – still to count.


That totaled approximately 3,766 ballots that still needed to be figured into the overall election results, said Fridley.


In addition, there were a couple hundred vote-by-mail ballots that came up as blank in the ballot counting machine because the voters had used pens rather than No. 2 pencils, Fridley said.


The Registrar of Voters Office began processing absentee ballots May 19, and first reported counts for those ballots Tuesday after 8 p.m. By the end of election night, Fridley's office reported that 6,151 absentee ballots had been cast.


The official canvass began Wednesday morning. Fridley said she has 28 days to complete and verify the final count.


“We're moving right along,” Fridley said Friday afternoon.


Fridley said it's rare for the absentees and provisionals to change an election's outcome.


However, she pointed out that it is possible that the uncounted ballots could impact the very close district attorney's race.


That contest saw challengers Don Anderson and Doug Rhoades with 4,088 and 3,463 votes respectively, while incumbent Jon Hopkins took third place with 3,258 votes.


Only 205 votes separate Rhoades and Hopkins, a narrow margin that the yet-to-be-processed ballots could affect, Fridley said.


She said she didn't expect a change in the standings of the sheriff's race, which had Francisco Rivero placing first with 4,297 votes, followed by incumbent Rod Mitchell with 3,852 votes and Jack Baxter with 3,008 votes.


Processing the absentee and provisional ballot is a time-consuming process, Fridley said.


Registrar of Voters staff must check the voters' signatures, addresses and ballot types, compare them to registration records and then sort them into the appropriate precincts, she said.


Provisional ballots, according to the California Secretary of State, are ballots used by first-time voters, absentees who show up to vote in person, those who have moved within their county without reregistering and anyone whose name doesn't show up on the polling place roster for an unknown reason.


The provisionals must be looked at individually to make sure that people who submitted them are registered to vote, which takes research. Some people also will submit a provisional ballot to vote for a different party that that they're registered for, which isn't allowed, she said.


Ballots submitted via the eSlate voting machines take even longer, she said.


For what is supposed to be a paperless process there is a lot of paper; Fridley said the electronic ballots must be printed out and compared to paper trails, then her staff must mark the choices on Mark-A-Vote cards and count the ballots in the precincts from which they came.


Fridley said she also was watching for write-in candidates on the ballots. She was noticing that people were writing in candidates from different parties on their ballots this year, an issue which may result from the fact that California's primaries haven't been open.


On Tuesday, Californians voted to implement open primaries. But Fridley can't say how California voters' decision to accept an open primary for the state will affect her job. Fridley said the open primary must first withstand likely court challenges.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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