Part of the Bay Area News Group

Soggy ballots show up in Contra Costa

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 3:17 pm in 2009 CD10 special election.

Last year, Weir irons ballots that wouldnt feed properly in his voting equipment.

Last year, Weir irons ballots that wouldn't feed properly in his voting equipment.

Does anyone have an extra hair dryer handy?

Nearly 200 ballots sent by Contra Costa voters through the mail for the Nov. 3 special election showed up in his office today soaking wet, an apparent victim of Tuesday’s deluge.

His staff has hung the ballots on drying racks.

On a couple of ballots, the signatures on the outside were unreadable and his staff has returned them to the voters with an explanation and new ballots.

As for the remaining ballots, he is crossing his fingers that they are readable once his staff opens the envelopes starting Oct. 23.

If the water washed away the voters’ marks, the ballots cannot be counted and these voters will have no chance to replace the ballots. Under state law, election clerks must immediately separate the envelope from the ballot as soon as they open it in order to preserve the voter’s right to cast a secret vote.

Back in June 2008, Weir received hundreds of wrinkled ballots that jammed in his scanning equipment. So, he ironed them.

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  • http://comcast hypocritical yes!

    Steve Weir is the best!!!!!

  • 4Antioch

    Only our County Clerk Steve Weir would go out of his way to make sure that every vote counts! Now no peeking, Steve :)

  • Common Tater

    Atta Guy, Steve! Plaudits to a great public official.

  • John W.

    Yes, kudos to a person and department truly worthy of the words, “public servants.” The phrase “dripping chads” comes to mind. Glad I held back sending in my ballot for SR city council.

  • Common Tater

    As is well known, Steve has a way of ironing out all problems.

    (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.)

  • http://deleted EdiBirsan

    It is always good to see some hot stuff in government.

  • steve weir

    Thanks for the kind words. I believe that any Registrar in California would do the same. We all go to any reasonable effort to keep ballots confidential AND count the vote.

    The ballots that are on drying racks are still in their envelopes (a few envelopes were so wet that the glue on the flap loosened.) Yes, they were VERY wet.

    It appears that the PO tried to run some of these ballots through their machinery, YIKES, you ought to see them! (We’ll have to re-make those ballots, a process that is closely controlled, come see it if you’re interested.)

    We go to every effort to make sure that we never can match up the voters ballot (with their names and signatures) and the actual ballot. We only sent back the ballots that had the signature wash out. (We are assuming that the ones that used an ink that did not “run” on the envelopes, also used an ink that does not run. (In our printing process, for higher quality control, we use ink that is not water soluble.)

    So, WE WOULD NEVER PEEK. It is part of our ethics and culture not to peak. And, quite frankly, we don’t want to, we’re processing hundreds of thousand of ballots. We also have supervision and protocols that discourage anyone trying to peek at a ballot.

  • Timerider

    My Lord! What has happened to common sense?
    If the County had the intelligence to return the ballots with damaged signatures? Why not just return them all to the voters? So that way they can fill out a new ballot rather then gambling on damaged ballots in wet envelopes and a vote not being counted?

    Are we all just stupefied now?

    WAKE UP!

  • Elwood

    Have you heard the good news?

    Postage is now free!

  • steve weir

    Issuing new ballots to all of the voters impacted by the Tuesday (October 13th) storm is unnecessary. We will hand open these ballots on Friday, October 23rd, the first day we can open vote-by-mail ballots. (Our normal process is to mechanically open the envelopes, but due to the exposure to water, the equipment would, most likely, mangle the ballots.) We will keep the envelope face down so as to hide the name of the voter. Then, we will pull out the ballot. If the ballot was marked with water soluble ink and is unreadable, we’re place the ballot back in the envelope and reseal it. When we finish reviewing the 170 ballots, any that need to be reissued will be sent out that day (11 days before the election) with an explanation of what happened and request that the voter mark and send that ballot back to us.

    We have a process to protect the confidentiality of the voter and identify any ballots that need to be reissued. This process is public and you’re welcome to observe this process.

  • 4Antioch

    Steve, you are the greatest! And I, for one, have the utmost confidence in your integrity and ethics. :)

  • Gayle Hansen

    I applied for Permanent Vote by Mail ballot – sent form in twice this year – and never received a ballot for the Nov 3, 2009 election…I called and was told I was “on the list”…but no ballot…too late now.

    I’m wondering if I’m the only one?