Voters run into some problems in Lodi
Two candidates for the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education were left off of several hundred ballots in Tuesday’s election, leaving one candidate feeling upset.
San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Melinda Dubroff said on Wednesday that as many as 545 voters did not see the race between incumbent Ron Heberle and challenger Ramon Yepez for the Lodi School Board Area 5 seat on their ballots, both mail-in and in person.
“I am highly hurt and disappointed that in 2018, more than 500 people did not have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote for me as the candidate for (Area 5 trustee),” Yepez said in a Wednesday statement to the News-Sentinel.
Dubroff said replacement ballots were sent out, and that her staff will conduct a deeper investigation to determine the cause of the clerical error and the extent of its impact on the race.
Although Yepez said in his statement that he believed the race between Heberle and himself was omitted from the ballots due to voter suppression, and that the majority of voters who received the omitted ballots were minority voters, no evidence was found to support his claim.
“I would like to know how this error has compromised the integrity and outcome of this race,” Yepez said. “It is very obvious that this race is far from over.”
Heberle was ahead with 2,056 votes (76.55 percent) as of 1:31 a.m. Wednesday, while Yepez received 630 votes (23.45 percent).
With Heberle leading by more than 1,400 votes, it’s unlikely that the error will affect the outcome of the race.
“It’s too bad that the error happened, and that those voters did not have the opportunity to vote in that area,” Heberle said.
The ballot omission was the largest challenge Dubroff faced, she said, adding that the majority of concerns she heard were related to the high voter turnout, such as long lines at polling places and limited parking.
“Those are not good problems to have, but it’s nice that there’s a good reason for them,” Dubroff said.
Although the News-Sentinel received reports on Tuesday night that “hundreds” of Lodi voters did not receive their mail-in ballots, Dubroff said her office received only a few calls from voters throughout the entire county who did not receive mail-in ballots.
“Ballots went out on Oct. 8, and I haven’t heard of any particular areas having any mail issues,” Dubroff said.
The News-Sentinel also received reports on Tuesday that the polling place at Lois E. Borchardt Elementary School was not in its usual spot.
“I do know that we carefully routed the path of travel for voters,” Dubroff said on Wednesday. “All schools were in session on Tuesday, so we took precautions at each of the schools to keep the voters and the students separated.”