Delayed sample ballots irk Nevada County candidates
Nevada County candidates who paid up to $300 or more to publish campaign statements in the Nov. 4 sample ballots were asking for a refund after the ballot mailings were delayed.
“What’s the point of me paying to be in this pamphlet if people have already voted?” Grass Valley City Council candidate Terry Lamphier said Monday, referring to voters who already received their vote-by-mail ballots and have since sent them back to the county elections office.
Linda Campbell, a candidate for Nevada Joint Union High School District board, Area 1, agreed.
“It would be nice if the word could get out that people might want to wait to vote-by-mail until after they get their sample ballots,” she said.
Earlier this week, Lamphier, who said he paid about $250 for the statement fee, and Campbell, who said she paid $325, contacted Gregory Diaz, Nevada County Clerk-Recorder, Registrar of Voters, to ask the reason for the delay and to inquire about a refund on the fees.
“I’m very concerned about the integrity of the voting process,” Lamphier said in a statement issued Monday. “People need to have confidence in government and this kind of thing hurts us all.
“Candidates spend thousands of dollars to have a timely official candidacy statement before the voters to help them make informed choices before they vote,” he added.
“There is also the issue of candidate mailers sent to voters to coincide with ballot mailings,” he said. “These also cost thousands of dollars.
“With local elections often very close, these kinds of mistakes can make all the difference in who gets elected or how people vote on ballot measures,” Lamphier said.
Lamphier said on Tuesday he has since talked with local elections veterans, who told him a refund was unlikely.
Elise Strickler, senior clerk-recorder assistant in the Nevada County Elections Office, confirmed that opinion late Tuesday.
“Right now, we do not see the option available for a refund of the candidate statements,” Strickler said.
Lamphier, however, noted that “if Gregory Diaz has the discretion to do so (grant a refund), it would be the right thing to do,” he said.
Patricia Smith, leader of Measure S, the medical marijuana cultivation initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot, said that the delays in the sample ballot mailing could affect the vote on Measure S.
That’s because, she said, voters who have received their vote-by-mail ballots — but who have not yet gotten the sample ballots — will only see the ballot label for Measure S that Nevada County Superior Court Judge Sean Dowling ruled was misleading and not impartial as required by law.
“That’s all they (voters) have to go on is that statement that is so biased,” Smith said.
According to Brian Lierman, vice president of ProVote Solutions, the printer for the county’s sample ballots and vote-by-mail ballots, the sample ballots were mailed Oct. 14 at the Porterville Post Office. After that, the postal system apparently transferred them through several different processing stations, he said.
“They weren’t lost, they were moved around to different locations in the postal system,” he said.
Diaz, meanwhile, issued a statement Tuesday about the delay in mailing the ballots. He said voters may go online to view their sample ballots at: http://reports.nevcounty.net/ELWebBallots/rdPage.aspx
(The full text of Diaz’s statement will be posted with this story online at http://www.theunion.com).
Here is Diaz’s account of the sequence of events:
“According to our plan, all ballots and booklets were to have been printed and ready for mailing by September 29, 2014,” Diaz said. “They were.
“However, on that very day, September 29, 2014, I was served with a Petition for Peremptory Writ of Mandate regarding ballot language for Measure S, which stopped the printing and mailing process,” he said. “On October 1, 2014, the hearing on the Petition was continued to October 3, 2014.
“On October 1, 2014, I asked our printers to freeze our mailing processes until we received a ruling on the Petition for Peremptory Writ of Mandate,” he said. “On October 3rd at 4:40 PM, I received the ruling on the petition: Petition Denied.
“At 4:44 PM, Ms. (Assistant Nevada County Registrar Sandra) Sjoberg sent an email to our printer to proceed with our mailing.” he said.
“On October 10, 2014, our printer informed me that our mailing would be delayed until October 14, 2014 due to an ‘internal production delay,’” Diaz said. “It is my understanding that this delay came about because of the cessation of the process on October 1st.
“At my request, the printer provided postal receipts documenting the deliveries,” he said.
Smith, meanwhile, said the delays in mailing both the sample ballots and the vote-by-mail ballots contradict statements the county gave to Dowling during the court case.
“There are a lot of questions about the ballots,” Smith said. “They’ve contradicted themselves about five times.”
In court on Oct. 3, county staff told Dowling the vote-by-mail ballots and sample ballots were already printed and ready to go out by Tuesday, Oct. 7. Later, when the ballots did not actually go out until several days later, county staff said it was because they ordered the printing stopped while the court case was in progress.
Smith said because printing had been stopped, it appears the county could have reprinted the ballots and gotten them out in time.
Meanwhile, Measure S opponent Don Bessee says he has filed additional documents with the state Fair Political Practices Commission to add to his complaint alleging violations in campaign finance statements by Measure S leader Patricia Smith.
He alleges Smith actually controls all the contribution committees listed in the public filings. Also, he said Smith is advertising fundraisers on Facebook, but those expenses were not listed in the campaign finance report.
Smith said Bessee was confusing Citizens for Fair Laws, the campaign committee for “Yes on S,” with Americans for Safe Access-Nevada County, a group that Smith also leads, and with Grass Roots Solutions, another committee.
As to the fundraisers, Smith said they were not taking place during the reporting period covered by the most recent campaign finance statements, and that they were also not being run by the campaign committee identified in the campaign finance reports.
“I’m not the only one running these groups,” Smith said. “I just happen to be the leader.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
UPDATE: This story has been updated today after a candidate clarified the amount paid for a ballot statement.
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