Matthew Renda

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March 25, 2013
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County elections evolve over last decade

The Nevada County Elections Office released a report saying that an increase in vote-by-mail ballots represents the most significant change in voting trends over the last decade.

The report also states the county office is constrained in carrying out its mission effectively due to a lack of resources.

In 2002, about 31 percent of voters participating in the general election cast their votes through the mail, the report states. In 2012, 74 percent of voters used Vote-by-Mail ballots in the general election.

“While this large increase in mailed ballots is of great benefit to voters, processing these ballots is extremely labor intensive and will continue to be so because of a significant number of inherent errors by voters,” the report states.

Election office workers verify the legitimacy of the vote by matching the signature on the ballot to the signature they have on file.

The most common errors are disparities between the two signatures, omission of the signature or ballots being mailed past the deadline, the report states.

“Because we are devoted to assuring that every vote legally cast is counted, we strive to help voters correct their errors whenever possible,” the report states. “If the signature is missing, we contact the voter directly, by phone if we have the number on file, or by mail if we don’t.”

Compromised process?

The report states deficiencies in technology at the elections office including a lack of a Election Technology Technician means the office is “becoming less efficient in the conduct of the entire elections process and ... missing opportunities to reduce costs.”

The report advocates for an automated system to maintain Campaign filing and financial disclosure statements and for a more streamlined records management process.

Currently, the elections office stores records at a warehouse located six miles away that lacks fire sprinklers.

“(The warehouse) lacks standard office resources, resulting in frequent trips back and forth for simple activities such as photocopying and printing,” the report states.

Furthermore, the $1.3 million worth of equipment is not overseen by a dedicated manager “leading to the possibility of mistakes that could threaten the integrity of the elections process.

“Elections workers are largely temporary staff, but without a manager at the warehouse these workers are often completely unsupervised, inevitably leading to errors that must be corrected by already overburdened permanent staff,” the report states.

November statistics

At the last general election in November, 62,853 voters participated in the election, representing a 3 percent increase from 2002, when a total of 60,451 individuals cast ballots.

In the last general election, 23,881 voters (38 percent) were registered as Republicans, compared to 20,736 voters (33 percent) registered as Democrats and 13,669 (22 percent) declined to list a party affiliation.

In November, 24,986 Nevada County voters (48.35 percent) cast ballots for the Republican Nominee for President Mitt Romney, while 24,662 county residents (47.73 percent) voted for Democratic President Barack Obama, according to the cumulative report compiled by the elections office.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein won the vote in Nevada County garnering 25,495 votes (50.41 percent) while her Republican running mate Elizabeth Emken collected 25,078 votes (49.59 percent).

Finally, the race to represent Nevada County in the U.S. House of Representatives was won by Republican Doug LaMalfa, who earned 22,267 votes (52.37 percent) as opposed to Democrat Jim Reed, who culled 20,255 votes (47.63 percent).

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.

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The Union Updated Mar 25, 2013 12:40AM Published Mar 26, 2013 02:55PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.