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Defect in paper ballots slowing election count  (CA)
Nicole C. Brambila The Desert Sun February 16, 2008

Super Tuesday might be over, but the election continues, officials say.

"It doesn't look like we'll be certified until March," said Riverside County Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore.

County election officials have 28 days to finalize election results with the Secretary of State's office.

Riverside County did not have any close races Feb. 5.

That isn't always the case. In the November 2006 election, the slow count delayed results in at least one race for weeks prompting, in part, an independent investigation.

Election officials statewide had expected slower results Tuesday because of a return to paper-ballot elections.

Following a security review, Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified the state's electronic voting machines in August amid concerns over hacking the vote.

Since election night, county election officials have counted more than 35,000 vote-by-mail, or absentee, ballots.

The registrar's office had encountered problems with vote-by-mail ballots falling apart when opened. Of the 300,000 absentee ballots mailed in January, officials estimate about one in six were defective.

Election officials are duplicating defective ballots by hand. The registrar's office has not hired extra temporary workers to help with duplicating, Dunmore said.

To date, about 13,000 of the estimated 18,000 defective ballots handled by the registrar's office have already been duplicated for counting. Dunmore said the ballot vendor, K&H Printers of Washington, absorbed the cost to reprint and mail additional ballots.

Officials blamed the slow count on the 100 percent manual tally of the 720 electronic voting machines the county had placed in each precinct for disabled voters. The manual count of electronic voting machines was mandated by the Secretary of State's office as a condition for their use.

About 20,000 voters cast ballots on electronic voting machines on election day.

Election officials estimate they have about 70,000 vote-by-mail ballots to count.

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