Hundreds of thousands of Santa Clara County mail-in ballots must have an ink smudge hand erased before they can be counted, in a major mail-in ballot snafu. The glitch could affect up to 80 percent of the county vote, officials said this morning.
Vote-counting optical scanners initially rejected more than 100,000 Santa Clara County mail-in ballots, Supervisor Liz Kniss said today.
It is undetermined whether the snafu will delay the announcement of election results tonight. But by late Tuesday afternoon county officials were predicting some delays due to the problem and the length of the ballot.
The County Registrar's office discovered the problem last Wednesday, Oct. 27 when the machines were rejecting a larger number of ballots than usual, Kniss said. But county supervisors did not learn of the major mail-in-ballot snafu until Monday, Nov. 1, at noon, according to Kniss.
Registrar of Voters Jesse Durazo was in Mexico attending a funeral and could not be reached when the problem was discovered last week. Elaine Larson, assistant registrar, notified the county executive's office of the problem, Kniss said.
ProVoteSolutions, a Porterville, Calif. firm, printed the ballots. ProVote is the only North American Security Product Organization (NASPO)-certified election printer in the United States, according to the company website. NASPO is a nonprofit organization that certifies providers of documents who follow specific security protocols.
ProVote has been certified by the state of California for the last six years as an election printer for a number of ballot types. The company provides ballots for 15 California counties, Vice President Brian Lierman said.
Santa Clara County is the only county that appears to be affected by the smudged ballots, according to Lierman. ProVote would reimburse the county for costs to inspect and clean the ballots, he said.
The ballots are mailed out by ProVote, Lierman said. Kniss said no one at the registrar's office sees the ballot before it is mailed out. A company representative mailed a copy of the ballot to himself to check the mailing and accepted the ballot as being correct, she said.
The registrar's office could not be reached Tuesday morning about whether there would be any delays in the vote count.
Despite the glitch, Kniss said she is confident that the count is correct.
"I don't think the voters should have any lack of confidence," she said. But she was concerned because the supervisors were not told immediately of the problem. The supervisors are the governing board of the registrar, according to Kniss. "It's our problem and ours to fix, as far as I'm concerned," she said.
Kniss said she wants County Executive Jeff Smith to straighten out the problem and "make sure it never happens again."