Stanis­laus clerk: Every­one able to vote; poll watch­ers dis­agree

The Modesto Bee - - Front Page - BY KEVIN VALINE AND GARTH STAPLEY kva­line@mod­bee.com gsta­p­ley@mod­bee.com

Dis­cord be­tween Stanis­laus County’s elec­tion of­fice and poll watch­ers con­tin­ued a day after Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions, with poll watch­ers con­tin­u­ing to claim some vot­ers were not able to cast bal­lots, an al­le­ga­tion of­fi­cials say is not true.

“Un­for­tu­nately vot­ers were dis­en­fran­chised,” Modesto at­tor­ney Lisa Bat­tista said Wed­nes­day. “We are not go­ing to get that back and have a fair elec­tion.”

Bat­tista or­ga­nized a group of about 50 poll watch­ers in Stanis­laus County through the aus­pices of the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Party. She filed a pe­ti­tion Tues­day ask­ing a judge to ex­tend vot­ing hours be­yond their nor­mal clos­ing time of 8 p.m. A Stanis­laus Su­pe­rior Court judge de­nied the re­quest at an emer­gency hear­ing.

Bat­tista also said she faced hos­til­ity from county of­fi­cials, which county of­fi­cials said was not true.

Lee Lun­dri­gan, county clerk and reg­is­trar, and other county of­fi­cials re­it­er­ated Wed­nes­day that vot­ers were not de­nied the abil­ity to cast bal­lots.

“We were do­ing the best with what they (the poll watch­ers) per­ceived as prob­lems,” County Coun­sel John Do­er­ing said. “And we did ad­dress those prob­lems in a timely fash­ion, with the touch­stone that every­one was able to vote.”

This comes as Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Jeff Den­ham con­tin­ues to hold a slight lead against Demo­cratic chal­lenger Josh Harder to rep­re­sent Stanis­laus County and south­ern San Joaquin County in Congress. There are thou­sands of bal­lots left to count.

There were long lines here and across the na­tion Tues­day, and pre­lim­i­nary es­ti­mates sug­gest huge voter turnout. The Bee has re­ported voter reg­is­tra­tion in Stanis­laus County in­creased 16 per­cent since the 2014 midterm elec­tions, while the county’s pop­u­la­tion grew by less than 5 per­cent.

Lun­dri­gan said her of­fice

had “mul­ti­ple thou­sands of bal­lots” re­main­ing to be counted. The elec­tion of­fice re­ported early Wed­nes­day that it had counted 79,996 bal­lots so far. That rep­re­sents a turnout of 32.3 per­cent among the county’s 247,833 reg­is­tered vot­ers.

She said Tues­day’s elec­tion ranks among the five busiest of the 43 her of­fice has con­ducted dur­ing her 17-year ten­ure. “It seems like a very busy elec­tion, and a very ex­cited elec­torate,” Lun­dri­gan said.

Bat­tista said poll watch­ers worked with the Harder cam­paign to pin­point the polling places with high turnout and Span­ish­s­peak­ing vot­ers. She said poll watch­ers vis­ited about three dozen polling places. Lun­dri­gan said the county had 141 polling places Tues­day.

Bat­tista has said that about a dozen polling places ran out of pink en­velopes used for pro­vi­sional bal­lots and vot­ers were turned away. “This prob­lem caused de­lays and long lines and some vot­ers were cer­tainly frus­trated and left with­out vot­ing,” she said in a pre­vi­ous story.

Pro­vi­sional bal­lots are of­fered to vot­ers whose reg­is­tra­tion can­not be ver­i­fied at a polling place. Those rea­sons can in­clude peo­ple who are reg­is­tered to vote at an­other polling place or who have re­cently moved. These bal­lots are placed in pink en­velopes to sep­a­rate them from reg­u­lar bal­lots so they can be ver­i­fied later.

Lun­dri­gan said pink en­velopes were pro­vided to polling places that needed them and polling places found other ways to seg­re­gate pro­vi­sional bal­lots.

She said the re­cent op­tion of con­di­tional vot­ing was an­other fac­tor. This lets peo­ple vote who missed the Oct. 22 reg­is­tra­tion dead­line to reg­is­ter but they have to vote at the main elec­tion of­fice in down­town Modesto.

Lun­dri­gan has said her of­fice had more than 1,000 of these vot­ers Tues­day. She said poll watch­ers may have seen con­di­tional vot­ers be­ing told at polling places that they had to vote at the elec­tion of­fice and as­sumed they were be­ing prevented from vot­ing.

Some other vot­ers in Tur­lock — claimed by both Den­ham and Harder as their home base — felt de­val­ued when poll work­ers could not find their names on voter rolls.

Stephanie End­s­ley-Bull and her hus­band, John Bull, and Ronda LaFol­lette all took their sam­ple bal­lots with them to the polls where they had voted many years, The Bee learned in sep­a­rate phone in­ter­views.

Clearly printed on the sam­ple bal­lots were their names and in­struc­tions to vote at Cor­ner­stone Covenant Church and Cross­roads Church, re­spec­tively, said End­s­ley-Bull and LaFol­lette’s hus­band, Brian. But they still were forced to re-reg­is­ter be­fore they were given pro­vi­sional bal­lots, they said.

End­s­ley-Bull said she doesn’t vote by mail be­cause she likes her 6-yearold son to see her par­tic­i­pate in the demo­cratic process. But what usu­ally is a quick in-and-out stop took more than an hour on Tues­day, she said. “I didn’t leave with that sat­is­fied, ‘I voted’ kind of feel­ing,” she said.

ANDY ALFARO aal­faro@mod­bee.com

Tech team su­per­vi­sor Tim McNabb, right, pre­pares bal­lots for count­ing at the Stanis­laus County Clerk Recorders of­fice in Modesto on Wed­nes­day. The elec­tion of­fice re­ported early Wed­nes­day that it had counted 79,996 bal­lots so far.

ANDY ALFARO aal­faro@mod­bee.com

A pro­vi­sional bal­lot en­ve­lope at the Stanis­laus County Clerk Recorders of­fice in Modesto.

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