A mistake with sample ballots in a number of precincts led the Nevada County Republican Party to lodge a formal complaint with the county’s Election Office Tuesday afternoon.
The ballot order on sample ballots in 14 precincts did not match the actual ballots in that they did not follow the supervisorial rotation with regard to the district attorney and superior court judge contests, Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Greg Diaz confirmed in a press release.
“It came to my attention at approximately 2 p.m. from a campaign manager,” Diaz said.
“Each affected precinct was notified by my office. We asked those precinct board members to notify each and every voter to review the official ballot before casting their vote, as their sample ballot may not match the official ballot.”
Diaz was quick to emphasize that the official ballots are correct.
“I repeat, the official ballots voted on by the voters are correct,” he said in the release.
“I sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have caused the voters.”
Because the races for district attorney and judge are countywide, the names have to be rotated on the ballot for the sake of fairness, said Senior Clerk-Recorder Assistant Elise Strickler.
The sample ballot problem occurred with one particular ballot type, which was used in 27 precincts. But only 14 precincts actually had inaccurate sample ballots, Strickler said.
“What happened was those 14 precincts were in a different supervisorial district than what showed up on the sample ballot, so those candidates rotated,” she said, adding that the rotation did not make it onto the sample ballots.
According to Strickler, there were 6,604 registered voters within those 14 precincts that could have been potentially affected.
“We’re covering our bases, making sure everyone is informed” of the issue, she said.
The complaint lodged by the county Republicans stated that their concern was that “many conscientious voters” mark their sample ballot before they go to the polls, and a number could simply mark their actual ballots by just copying the samples. Potentially, the letter said, a voter could be trying to vote for Candidate A, the second person on their sample ballot, and simply mark the second name on the actual ballot when they got to the polls — which would not be Candidate A in those 14 precincts.
“There’s always little glitches here and there, but this is a pretty major error,” said Nevada County Republican Party Chairwoman Deborah Wilder.
“Particularly for some of our older voters, I think that’s problematic. I’m just really disappointed.”
Wilder said she had no actual confirmation of anyone actually casting an inaccurate vote.
“I had a couple of voters tell me they almost voted for the wrong person,” she said.
“I’m not sure if someone would know they had misvoted. That’s what the real problem is.”
Since there are only two candidates for district attorney, Wilder said she was not as concerned for that race.
“With five candidates for judge, that’s where the real confusion could lie,” she said. “The candidates are working hard, and I’d hate to see an election turn by a few votes because someone was confused by the ballot.”
For a candidate to win the open judge seat outright, he or she would have to garner 50 percent of the votes plus one; otherwise, the top two vote-getters will have a run-off in November.
With a “pretty big chunk” of potential voters affected by the sample ballot issue, Wilder said, the results could be called into question if the No. 2 and No. 3 candidates are within 100 or 200 votes of each other.
It would be for the campaigns to file a protest, however, she said.
“I’m hoping it’s not all that close so it’s not an issue,” Wilder said.
“I’m not sure how the county would address that.”
Jim Firth, Nevada County Democratic Central Committee chairman, said the potential for someone voting inaccurately because their sample ballot was different seemed like an educational issue.
“We certainly want to be sure the election was being held properly,” he said.
“If an individual made a mistake in how they were voting because they weren’t paying attention, that would be unfortunate … It would seem odd to me not to pay attention to the name of the person you were voting for.”
Also, according to Wilder, approximately five or six precincts had issues with the electronic voting machines.
“A number malfunctioned or they couldn’t get them up and running, so a lot of people had to vote by paper ballot,” she said, adding that that will delay final vote tallies.
Strickler confirmed some machines had to be replaced but did not have a specific number Tuesday.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.