This post has been corrected. See note below for details.
With just over a week left before election day, the Long Beach city clerk has discovered ballot irregularities that could affect more than half of the city’s voting precincts in one of the most closely watched local elections in years.
Ballot tabulators failed to count votes marked on the second page of some ballots, said City Clerk Larry Herrera. The mistake affects precincts that have two-page ballots -- about 169 of the city's 295 polling places.
Herrera said his office discovered the problem Friday afternoon while running a routine “logic and accuracy” test on the ballots ahead of next Tuesday’s election.
The city has not printed two-page ballots since 2007, according to Herrera, and since then some of the tabulation processes have changed but were not readjusted for the two-page ballots.
The primary election, scheduled for April 8, is expected to narrow large fields of candidates vying for wide-open races for mayor and five of the nine City Council seats.
Herrera says the anomaly in no way affects the mayoral or council races, which appear on the first page of the affected ballots, but possibly affects some local school district races and a measure to tax medical marijuana sales. (The measure would take affect only if current efforts to pass new marijuana regulations are successful.)
Previously, the city clerk's office announced that the authors of ballot arguments for and against the medical marijuana measure had been inadvertently left off English-language ballots.
In a statement, Herrera called the ballot issues “unfortunate” and said he has worked with the city’s longtime printer, K&H Integrated Print Solutions, to solve them. He added that the printer will pay for all expenses related to the ballot reprinting.
All of the ballots destined for the affected precincts Tuesday will be reprinted and replaced, Herrera said. But city election staffers will have to open by hand each mail-in ballot from those polling places and duplicate the selections for each race on the new ballots before running them through the vote counter.
The city clerk's office has already received more than 9,000 vote-by-mail ballots, and as many as 12,000 may ultimately need to be hand-duplicated.
The city will increase the number of volunteers and staff for the duplication process, and the extra step is not expected to delay vote tallies on the day of the election.
In the meantime, the new ballots were re-tested over the weekend, said Herrera, and “passed with flying colors.”
As required by law, the city will keep a paper trail of the original ballots in case the votes are later disputed.
“I just want voters to know that every vote is going to be counted accurately,” Herrera told the Times. “Every vote will count.”
[For the Record, 3:06 p.m. PST, April 2: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said poll workers would open some ballots. City workers will open ballots.]