By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Hundreds of Sonoma County residents who cast their ballots by mail last week will not have their votes counted because they did not make it to the county elections office in time.
As of Tuesday morning, 432 mail-in ballots had arrived at the Sonoma County elections office after the June 8 voting deadline and will not be counted, said Gloria Colter, assistant registrar of voters.
“You’re taking your chances when you put it in the mail,” Colter said. “And you don’t know how quickly it’s going to get handled.”
Unlike tax day April 15, a postmark ensures nothing. Mail-in ballots, according to the state elections code, must be received by the registrar’s office before the polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
The 432 uncounted ballots is a small fraction of the up to 90,000 votes that were cast by mail in the June 8 election. County elections officials went to great lengths to ensure that absentee voters got their ballots counted, Colter said.
Every vote-by-mail ballot sent to voters contained a bright, orange information slip that encouraged them to return the ballot as soon as possible. The slip also warned voters that their ballot should not be mailed after June 3 because it might not be delivered on time.
After that date, voters were encouraged to take their ballots to specific drop-off locations the Saturday before the election.
Furthermore, county elections officials “swept” local post offices on Election Day hunting for ballots that had been mailed late.
County elections workers visited the U.S. Post Office’s North Bay sorting center in Petaluma on June 8 at 7:30 a.m. p.m. searching for mail-in ballots, Colter said. Sweeps were made later in the day at the main post in Santa Rosa and at the annex near Coddingtown Mall.
The day after the election, postal officials discovered 100 ballots that were postmarked June 8. They may have arrived at the North Bay sorting center after elections officials had completed their sweep of the facility.
Thousands of ballots will be left uncounted in other counties, The Sacramento Bee reported. They include:
– Some 20,000 ballots in Riverside County didn’t make the count because they weren’t discovered in post offices until 3 a.m. Wednesday, an elections official said. A Postal Service spokeswoman disputes that number and said a miscommunication on both sides may be at fault.
– In Sacramento County, 2,053 vote-by-mail ballots arrived too late to be counted legally under the state Elections Code.
– In El Dorado County, 750 ballots came in too late to be counted. In Yolo County, the number was 408.