Flawed Vote Gets Its ‘OK’

Times Staff Writer

Orange County’s error-filled March 2 primary election was certified Tuesday by Registrar Steve Rodermund, even as the Board of Supervisors pledged to fix problems with the new electronic voting system for the November general election.

Election day problems included about 2,000 voters being given the wrong ballot style, listing candidates for whom they were ineligible to vote, while other voters inadvertently submitted their ballots electronically before they were finished voting, Rodermund said.

The result of one race, for a Democratic Party post, could have been affected by ineligible voters because the final vote was so close, he said.

“We did everything we did with the best of intentions, but we see the need to make some modifications,” Rodermund told supervisors Tuesday.


The changes will include limiting each polling place to one ballot style, or to a single precinct. The voting problems occurred among 184 polling places with multiple ballot styles and precincts. Voters in 2006 also will see a warning box if they hit the red “cast ballot” button prematurely, Rodermund said.

All counties must submit their results from the March 2 election to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley by April 6. He has until April 10 to approve the election results.

A Shelley spokeswoman said he would discuss the voting problems encountered in Orange, San Diego and Alameda counties at a news conference next week. He also is expected to address a call by two state legislators to temporarily suspend electronic systems in 14 California counties until the bugs are worked out.

It was the wide margins of victory in the Orange County races that enabled supervisors to decide that the problems could be fixed for November without disrupting the certification of votes from the primary.

Board members, in fact, spent more time at their Tuesday meeting discussing an upcoming poll worker appreciation barbecue scheduled for Saturday, where workers will be asked to participate in a series of focus groups to identify election day foul-ups.

About 2,100 poll workers have said they’ll attend, Rodermund said.

“We’re trying to make it a learning experience and improve things for the future,” said Supervisor Chris Norby, who, with Supervisor Bill Campbell, will hold hearings in April to get input from poll workers and the public on how to fix the problems encountered in March.

The hearings will begin at 7 p.m. on April 12 at Irvine City Hall, at 7 p.m. on April 13 at Fullerton City Hall and at 9 a.m. on April 14 at the county Hall of Administration.


Darrell Nolta, a poll worker from Westminster, said he was devastated that some voters were given the wrong ballots at his polling place before he discovered the problem.

“If a single voter in this county lost his right to vote, that’s a serious matter,” Nolta told supervisors.

Voter Jim Anderson from Anaheim, who didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting, said he lives in the 72nd Assembly District but was given a ballot for the 69th Assembly District when he arrived at his polling place at an Anaheim school district office. There were so many people having trouble figuring out how to use the electronic voting machines that he decided to vote anyway for candidates in the wrong district.

He voted about 10:45 a.m. and a poll worker said 39 other people already had voted -- and each had been given the same ballot as Anderson.


“I think the number the registrar is giving [for bad votes] is way too low,” Anderson said Tuesday.