Grand Jury: Despite minor problems, 2012 election ran “smoothly” in Nevada County |

Grand Jury: Despite minor problems, 2012 election ran “smoothly” in Nevada County

A judicially empowered citizen’s watchdog group gave Nevada County’s execution of the 2012 general election a passing grade, despite a few “minor” problems, mostly related to poll-worker training.

“The Nevada County grand jury is pleased to report to the citizens of Nevada County that the Nov. 6, 2012, presidential general election in Nevada County ran smoothly, problems were minor and the election was conducted effectively,” the jury wrote in a report published Friday on its website.

On Election Day, members of the grand jury visited most of the 56 precincts in Nevada County, the report stated.

During interviews conducted with poll workers, it was determined that some precincts had difficulty in setting up the voting equipment, some precincts had voting equipment failures and some precincts were crowded.

In most cases, poll workers who had difficulty setting up their voting equipment were able to shut them down and restart the setup process with assistance from the field elections deputy or the elections office, the report noted.

In cases of voting equipment failures, that deputy was able to replace the equipment that failed. Another small complaint was offered to jury members by poll workers, who said the Providence Mine Room, a long and narrow space at the county’s Rood Government Center where workers were trained, was too crowded. Similarly, jury members found that inadequate space hampered efficient operations in several polling places.

The jury also found the lengthy interval between Election Day and the mailing date of the poll workers evaluation surveys was too long to ensure accurate results.

To remedy these woes, the civil grand jury recommended that the elections office direct staff to identify a larger training venue, require each precinct team to set up voting equipment before leaving the training, increase the number of classes to decrease crowded training sessions, attempt to relocate crowding polling places, and include poll worker evaluation surveys with the precinct kits and require completion by the end of worker shifts.

The Nevada County grand jury consists of 19 residents who volunteer and investigate day-to-day operations of government agencies within the county and consider how to improve the overall functioning of governmental entities.

Its members serve for one year and have the power to subpoena citizens and documents in the course of an investigation.

California law dictates that organizations formally respond to grand jury recommendations within a specific time frame. In this case, the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder has until July 30 to respond.

During its elections investigation, the jury also followed up on its 2010 recommendations regarding vote-by-mail procedures.

According to a March report, an increase in vote-by-mail ballots represented the most significant change in voting trends over the last decade.

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.

In 2010, the grand jury recommended the vote-by-mail ballots should include instructions for the replacement of spoiled or lost ballots for instances when it is too late to use the U.S. Postal Service, should include instructions on how and where to vote in person and the phone number of the Elections Office. The 2012-13 jury found that all the recommendations had been implemented.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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