Two counties running low on ballots

A half-dozen Contra Costa County voting precincts are running low on Democratic ballots, prompting county election officials to start printing more copies.

Alameda County is also reporting shortages of Democratic ballots in some precincts.

An apparently high number of decline-to-state voters electing to vote in the Democratic primary is tapping into the supply, said Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir said.

The county started printing extra Democratic ballots within the past hour and also has extra mail-in ballots that would work if necessary.

“In order for this to happen, it takes an extraordinary voter turn-out,” he said.

The shortfall is especially alarming given the relatively early hour. Typically, one-third of voters visit the polls before 4 p.m., while the bulk vote after work and into the evening.

The county supplies each of its 800-plus precincts with more than enough ballots to accommodate every registered member of each of the political parties plus the nonpartisan or decline to state voters.

“I don’t quite understand it yet,” Weir said. “I’m still trying to figure it out. There may be a targeted get-out-the-vote effort in this area or just high turnout.”

Alameda County has an ample supply of ballots, said spokesman Guy Ashley.

“We are driving the ballots out to the precincts where we have had shortages,” Ashley said. “I just think we’re having very high turnout.”

In a related development, Weir said Contra Costa pollworkers incorrectly refused to supply at least two decline to state voters with Democratic ballots. In California, only the Republican Party bars non-members from participating in its presidential primary.

“We immediately called the inspectors and later sent out rovers to re-inspect the precincts and make sure that we were providing the correct information,” Weir said. “We haven’t received any more calls, so we think we have the problem solved.”

Alameda County has also struggled with confusion over which voters are permitted to vote in what party’s primary.

Advocates for Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are showing up at polling places to inform decline-to-state voters of their option to vote in the Democratic primary and have “created a few tense situations,” Ashley said.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen