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More Absentee Ballots, More Problems

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Aired 4/19/09

San Diego County voters will go to the polls tomorrow. But this year, a record number have already voted by absentee ballot. KPBS Reporter Andrew Phelps says more mail-in ballots means the potential for more glitches.

Poway resident Marceline Frank waited for her absentee ballot to arrive in the mail this year, but it didn’t come.

Frank: So I called, and they said they showed that they had sent me one. And I said, "Well, I didn’t get it." And they said, "Well, we’ll send you another one."

Three days later, Frank received a ballot, filled it out, and mailed it in. But two days after that, Frank says she received another ballot – actually, a photocopy of a ballot. The Registrar of Voters sent out 5,000 photocopies of ballots. Election officials will have to recreate all those votes by hand on regular ballots. Registrar Mikel Haas says the county ran out because so many people requested them -- a record 425,000 absentee ballots this year. Kim Alexander is founder of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation.

Alexander: I think that all of the counties are overburdened with this election in terms of having a very high number of absentee ballots to process.

Alexander says glitches happen every election season, but this year there are more than ever in California. The flap over paper ballots comes at a bad time, she says, because voters are already skeptical of computerized voting.

Alexander: When there are basic problems with printing and sending out ballots, it does not give voters confidence in the election officials’ ability to handle all the high-tech equipment that we now see in our polling places.

San Diego is one of three California counties that will install touchscreen machines at every polling place. Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.

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