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1,400 ballots incorrectly mailed to San Francisco voters right before election

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More than 1,400 ballots of the wrong party affiliation were incorrectly mailed to San Francisco voters, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

The ballot snafu comes just a week before San Francisco voters hit the polls for the June primary election, and during the prime vote-by-mail period — critical for local races like the Democratic County Central Committee, the state Senate primary and a number of local ballot measures.

The Examiner learned of the mistake from readers who sent in letters they obtained from the San Francisco Department of Elections.

“A Nonpartisan ballot was mailed to you in error; this ballot did not accurately reflect your request for a Democratic Party ballot for this primary election,” reads the letter from the department, signed by John Arntz, its director.

June races are historically low turnouts, and oft-decided by few voters. In the June 2014 election, for instance, now-Assemblymember David Chiu beat his opponent, David Campos, by a hair under 3,000 votes.

About 61,705 vote-by-mail ballots have been received and accepted so far this election, according to the Department of Elections eData tool.

Importantly, Arntz said, the incorrect ballots will still be counted if sent in. Voters may also mail in a correct, replacement ballot which was later sent to voters.

“Yes, if we receive one ballot we will count that ballot. The notices indicate this as well,” Arntz wrote in an email. “If we receive the first ballot we will hold it until after Election Day and then void it if the second ballot arrives.”

Arntz told the Examiner between 1,400 and 1,600 voters were affected.

Those ballots were distributed May 9, and the Department of Elections started getting calls from voters about receiving the wrong ballots. Arntz said they began sending notices to voters on May 13, and replacement ballots May 17.

There were two snafus, Arntz said.

First, some voters who registered online using the California Online Voter Registration service on the Secretary of State’s website, known as COVR marked “other” for a political party, and indicated they’d like to be a poll worker. COVR captured and stored the correct political party, Arntz said, but “would send that record to the county (of San Francisco) with a blank political party preference.”

The second snafu occurred when Department of Elections personnel selected an incorrect party name for what are called “crossover ballots” from a new pulldown menu in the COVR system, to enter into the local database. Arntz said this was because “the crossover information did not intuitively inform us how the system operated.”

To address this, “we now manually input and review all records” to determine if they requested a “crossover” ballot, Arntz said.

Voters with questions can contact the Department of Elections at (415)-554-4375 or at sfvote@sfgov.org.

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  • Gross errors at the San Francisco Election Department do not surprise me at all.

    Anyone who has ever worked for that department or who has had to get their own voter registrations corrected should have a taste of how incompetent, and venal that department can be.

    My first inclination is to suggest that election officials be drafted in much the same way that jurors are. But wouldn’t that open up a new can of worms?