By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A printing error on absentee ballots sent out last week to Democratic voters in southern Sonoma County means that more than 15,000 voters will receive a second, corrected ballot this week.
The Mark West Union School District Measure C — a ballot measure meant for voters in the Santa Rosa and Larkfield areas — was included on absentee ballots sent to Democratic voters in the Petaluma and south county area, Sonoma County elections officials said Monday.
The error was discovered by a voter Wednesday, two days after more than 150,000 absentee ballots were sent out to voters in the county, said Gloria Colter, Sonoma County’s assistant registrar of voters.
The mistake was traced back to an error by the county’s printer, Porterville-based ProVote Solutions, Colter said.
It affected an unknown number of absentee ballots, she said. But county officials made the decision to send corrected ballots to the entire affected voting block, approximately 15,600 voters, Colter said.
The actual number of ballots affected by the error could be much smaller, she said.
The corrected ballots should arrive via first class mail this week, Colter said.
Along with the ballots, officials sent instructions that voters should vote on and return only the second, corrected ballot and destroy the original ballot.
If a voter has already returned the first ballot, they should still vote and return the second ballot. In that case, officials said they would void the returned original ballot and honor the corrected ballot.
If a voter is unable to return the corrected ballot, their original ballot will be unvoided and their votes transferred to a duplicate, corrected ballot, Colter said.
Absentee ballots sent to other areas of the county were not affected by the error, she said.
“This was a very rare occurrence,” she said. The printer “is doing everything they can to investigate the cause.”
The county has contracted with the printer, formerly Sequoia Voting Systems for decades. ProVote Solutions took over the company’s printing division last year.
The cost of printing and mailing the corrected ballots will be paid by ProVote Solutions, officials said. ProVote Solutions could not be reached for comment.
Elections officials also said Monday that they had received a number of phone calls from absentee voters saying that their ballot packets were received open.
Officials said the cause was thicker ballots — including voter information pamphlets — which got caught in the the Post Office’s processing equipment.
Voters who receive an open ballot packet should confirm that it contains all contents, including a voter information pamphlet, a ballot contained in a blue secrecy envelope, an identification envelope that requires the voter’s signature and a return envelope.
Voters who have concerns or questions about their absentee ballot can contact the Registrar of Voters, 565-6800 or 800-750-8683.