Voting woes an embarrassment

Throughout California, worried elections officials have been telling The Associated Press that more than one out of 10 presidential primary ballots are likely to remain uncounted on the night of the Feb. 5, possibly delaying our result announcements until last of all 24 “Tsunami Tuesday” states. Could anything be more embarrassing for California’s stature as world leader in high-tech?

This time the accused bottleneck is late absentee ballots, not the vulnerabilities of all-electronic voting machines. About half the ballots cast for theelection are expected to arrive by mail, up from 33 percent in the 2004 presidential primary. And the unsettled drama of both the Republican and Democratic campaigns may tempt many absentee voters to wait until the last minute before submitting their ballots.

Any absentee ballots not received at a county election headquarters until Election Day are unlikely to be counted for as long as a week after polls close, warned the voting registrar of San Diego County.

About 4 million of California’s 15.5 million registered voters have applied for “permanent absentee” status, which means they automatically receive all their ballots by mail. That total could grow to at least 4.3 million by the time registration for the presidential primary closes tomorrow, according to the statewide registrars association. In addition, regular one-time absentee ballots for this specific election are likely to be requested by some three-quarters of a million voters. There were more than 700,000 of such nonpermanent mail voters in the 2006 state election.

Yet another complicating factor for Tsunami Tuesday is California’s system of allocating party delegates by congressional districts, which often cross county lines. So the final results of a closely contested election might remain unknown for days if some counties within the district cannot keep up with their neighbors’ tallies.

A mess like this simply is not acceptable in California. Our state is the home of Silicon Valley, birthplace of the modern computing that continues to transform the world from right here in the Bay Area. Could it really be true that the armada of brilliant thinkers responsible for Google, the iPhone, Oracle, Hewlett Packard, et al., would be unable to quickly create a practical, tamper-proof method of tallying a database on some five million paper ballots? That is actually a relatively manageable data total by 21st-century standards.

Under state law, registrars can begin feeding absentee ballots received before Election Day through the counting machines a week before polls open. The problem of delayed vote tallies arises when a mass of late-arriving absentee ballots must be put aside on the night of Election Day in order to count the ballots cast in person at individual precincts. We say there has to be a better way for California, of all places, to bring out prompt, accurate and final vote totals.

General OpinionOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

There are pandemic-era options for movie lovers who want to watch outdoors

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read