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Allegations of missing ballots untrue

10/14/2010

Delaine Fragnoli

Managing Editor 

     At the end of a recent political forum, supervisor candidate Dick Lundy referred to “hundreds” of “missing” ballots in the June primary election. The comment followed several weeks of rumors, phone calls, e-mails and letters alleging a number of mail ballots were not counted. Those allegations carried with them the suggestion that Lundy would not be in a run-off election with J.P. Kennedy if all the ballots had been counted.

     Plumas County Clerk Recorder Kathy Williams said there are no “missing” ballots. She explained the misunderstanding came from a procedural mistake.

     When elections officials process ballots, they save a voter history for each one. The history includes the last five or six elections and shows whether the person voted and whether he or she voted by mail or at a precinct.

     Voter histories are available for purchase. Both the Lundy and Kennedy campaigns purchased histories. When they approached some voters about not voting, the voters said they did vote, early and by mail.

     When the voters called the clerk-recorder’s office they were told their voter histories showed they did not vote. Thus the rumors were born.

     Williams retrieved the actual ballot envelopes. If the envelope is empty, the ballot was counted. An audit showed the ballots in question were counted. Because of a procedural error, the voter histories were not updated.

     All of the ballots in question were processed on the same day, so Williams audited everything for that day.

     The glitch affected 45 voter histories, not “hundreds.” The voter histories have now been updated.

     Williams also said her office received 88 late ballots. Twenty-nine of those were from District 5, the area Kennedy and Lundy hope to represent. Late ballots are date stamped and kept intact — they are never opened.

     The whole affair raised questions about slow mail service. Graeagle mail goes first to Reno, then to Sacramento and then to Quincy.

     In Sacramento, the postal service was bundling the ballots with other mail. Williams said she talked to a postal supervisor there who said the service would stop bundling the ballots and send them on as individual pieces. That should help expedite return of mail ballots said Williams.

     Graeagle voters also questioned why the postal service in Quincy held mail ballots for the recent all-mail Plumas District Hospital Measure B ballot but did not do the same for other areas in other elections.

     Williams said when the post office holds ballots, her staff has to go to the post office and physically pick up the ballots. She simply doesn’t have the staff to provide that service at all post offices in the county.

     Williams reiterated several times that it is the voter’s responsibility to keep registration current and to vote early. “Vote-by-mail ballots are not forwardable. If an address has changed, the post office returns the ballot to our office,” said Williams. “Voters who have moved, changed mailing address, name or party must complete a new registration card.”

     Voters can always check their status or the status of their ballot at the clerk-recorder’s office, 283-6256.

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