Only 30,000 ballots left …

Only a few San Francisco measures are still at stake as dozens of vote counters work 16-hour days “remaking” tens of thousands of ballots in hopes of a complete tally by Friday.

According to Elections Department head John Arnzt, even though all precincts have reported, there are still 30,000 ballots that need to be copied and counted under strict new state guidelines.

San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system has always created problems when voters leave a choice blank. The machine spits the ballot back out and elections workers count the ballot by hand. Arnzt calls that an undervote.

This year, because undervotes are also caused by marking ballots with an inappropriate pen, Secretary of State Debra Bowen is requiring San Francisco election workers to fill out or “remake” a replica ballot by using a leaded pen that can be recognized by an optical scanner.

The Examiner first reported on the situation in May, shortly after Bowen sent a letter to The City’s electronic voting machine provider, Election Systems and Software, to say her office would not certify the equipment. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is in litigation with that provider.

“We’ve never had to do it on a scale so large,” Arnzt said, adding that workers have already gone through about 100,000 ballots.

Arnzt said that his goal was to have 75 percent of the precinct ballots and 65 percent of the absentee ballots counted by last Friday. Workers appear to have met that goal.

While Mayor Gavin Newsom has already statistically won the election with a current lead of about 70,000 votes and many of the propositions are as good as decided, three are still too close to call.

Measures E and F are the closest races.Measure E, which would change the city charter to require the mayor to answer questions posed by the Board of Supervisors, appears to be failing with 51.8 percent voting against it — a difference of 4,686 votes.

Measure F, which would boost the retirement pay of some police officers, is winning with 51.5 percent — a differenceof 3,709 votes.

Proposition A, a measure that would benefit public transportation at the expense of parking, is pulling ahead with 55.3 percent of the vote — a difference of just more than 14,000 votes.

bbegin@examiner.com

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