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Missing ballots plague some area residents

Absentee troubles not new, according to clerk-recorder

Becky Trout, The Union  October 30, 2004

 Numerous absentee ballots have gone missing in Nevada County recently, frustrating registered voters who want to ensure their votes are counted.

Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Smith insists ballots for previously registered absentee voters were mailed on Oct. 4 and should have been received by Oct. 8.

But numerous local voters have not received their ballots. They're calling the elections office, and local party leaders Democrat Mary Longmore, Republican Tony Gilchrease, and Beth Moore Haines of the Green Party.

And they aren't happy.

Penn Valley resident Susette Connick and her son haven't received their ballots after they notified the elections office of their new address. Gene Roghair couldn't get an absentee ballot for his son, and permanent absentee voter Margie Determan didn't receive a ballot in the mail.

Gilchrease said he's frustrated because he can't help them.

"I just tell them to call the elections office," Gilchrease said.

Absentee ballot problems cropped up early. Most ballots had blacked-out portions on the back, the result of elections officials trying to correct a mistake without reprinting ballots, which would have cost $20,000, Smith said.

The Nevada County Elections Office is swamped, but willing to ensure registered voters have the opportunity to cast a ballot, one elections worker said Friday.

One reason some of the county's 29,000 absentee ballots are missing is that voters have moved but failed to reregister, Smith said. Postal workers cannot forward election mail, so the ballots are returned to the elections office, Smith said.

She said she did not know how many ballots have been returned because she has been out of the office for three days training poll workers.

"This is not the first time this has happened," Smith said. She said she plans to work with the post office to find a more efficient way to manage absentee ballots.

But Joanne Harris and her husband Kenneth did reregister. They went into the elections office in July to maintain their voting status because they were moving to Tucson, Ariz., but had not yet bought a home and had no address.

They received voter information pamphlets, but did not receive ballots.

When they called the elections office Wednesday, they were told they would not be getting a ballot.

"Needless to say we are provoked," Harris said. "It really annoys me that we can't vote."

Smith said the Harris' have already been sent a ballot.

Smith said some ballots may have been lost in the mail, but she acknowledged the difficult task facing the nation's postal service during election seasons.

Not all Nevada County absentee voters are having problems.

Area residents Jacquie Janssen and Mary Tucker both voted absentee without problems.

Charles Tout didn't receive an absentee ballot but the 91-year-old didn't let that stop him from voting. Tout went to the elections office Friday and cast his vote.

Smith said the absentee ballots are the same size as the regular ballots and will be able to be counted by the voting machines.

Elections workers are available to answer questions about voting at 265-1298. Absentee ballots must be ped off at the elections office at 10433 Willow Valley Road, Suite E, Nevada City or absentee voters may vote at their local polling place on Tuesday.


Your options

Absentee voters: If you have not received a ballot, you can still vote. If you have an absentee ballot, but have not voted yet, it is too late to mail it in. Instead take the ballot to the Nevada County Elections Office at 10433 Willow Valley Road, Suite E, Nevada City.

Absentee voters without a ballot should call the elections office at 265-1298 or visit the office, an elections spokeswoman said Friday.

A poll worker will check their status and instruct potential voters' how to obtain a ballot. They will receive another absentee ballot or be directed to a local polling place.

All absentee ballots must be received at the elections office by 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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