Sample Ballot Error Found; Wrong Picks Could Result

Times Staff Writer

More than 700,000 sample and absentee ballots mailed last week to San Diego County voters contain errors that could lead people to inadvertently vote for the wrong candidate Nov. 4, election officials said Monday.

The errors, which appear on the first page of the ballot pamphlets, affect the lists of candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and state controller, said Keith Boyer, acting registrar of voters.

"All the candidates are on the page," he said. "(The problem) is just the order they're in."

State law requires that the list of candidates for a given office be rotated in a different order in each state Assembly district so no candidate receives an unfair advantage by being at the top of the list. However, the candidates were not rotated properly on the ballots sent to voters in the 74th, 77th, 78th and 79th Assembly districts.

Rectifying this error will cost the county $80,000 to $100,000, Boyer said. The registrar's office will send voters in the affected districts a substitute page for their sample ballots, he said, adding that new pages also will be inserted into the ballots that will be in the voting booths on Election Day.

Boyer said there is a chance that some voters who mark their choices on a sample ballot to save time in the voting booth might mistakenly vote for the wrong candidate.

"Say you're voting for Smith and Smith's name is third on the list on the sample ballot," Boyer said. "If you just mark the third name on the ballot, you may be voting for someone else than Smith."

Boyer said notices will be posted at the polls and election workers will be instructed to assist voters who are confused. Voters can make sure they are voting for the right candidate by simply reading the names on the official ballot.

The registrar's office will send new absentee ballots to 14,100 voters, Boyer said. Erroneous absentee ballots that have already been mailed in to the registrar's office will be held until the corrected ballot is received, he said.

"There are provisions to make sure they get the second ballot, provisions to make sure we don't count both ballots and provisions to make sure every ballot is counted properly," Boyer said, though he would not elaborate on what those provisions are.

The ballot errors were discovered Thursday during a routine check by election officials. This is the first election in which the Long Beach firm of Martin & Chapman has printed San Diego County's ballots, but Boyer said the printer is not to blame.

"They had nothing to do with it," he said. "It was us that did it."

Boyer said the source of the problem was a county procedure under which election workers proofread two copies of each ballot, sent one corrected ballot to the printer and placed the other copy in the registrar's files. Although the file copies of the ballots had the erroneous candidate listings marked in red ink, the copies sent to the printer had no such notations.

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