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Election not over till it’s over

John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Thursday November 09, 2000


The final results of Berkeley’s elections may not known until early next week due to an unusually high number of absentee and provisional ballots.  

City Clerk Sherry Kelly said she did not expect any surprises, but with a possible 6,000 uncounted absentee ballots, at least two close races might be affected by the final count.  

The races in question are the Berkeley Unified School Board election and Bond Measure Q.  

According to the unofficial count, the school board elected two members Tuesday night, Joaquin Rivera, who received 41.7 percent of the vote and John Selawsky who received 23.3 percent of the vote. Selawsky, beat out third place Sherri Morton, who received 19.7 percent, by just 2,128 votes.  

Kelly said there is a slim chance that Selawsky may not have won, but she won’t know for sure until all the votes are counted next week.  

Bond Measure Q, which would authorize the sale of bonds to raise $9.75 million to fund a proposed mobile disaster fire protection system, requires two thirds voter approval, but as of Wednesday morning it was hanging on with an even 68 percent. 

It is not known precisely how many absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted but veteran poll workers said Tuesday night that they have never seen so many. Kelly said there may be as many as 6,000 uncounted absentee ballots and an unknown number of provisional ballots. 

Berkeley voters whose names did not appear on precinct rolls but claimed to be registered were able to vote by provisional ballot. These ballots are subject to verification by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office. The Registrar’s Office said the provisional ballots also may not be counted until next week. 

“We’ve never seen requests for so many provisional ballots,” said Norman Harvey, the precinct inspector at the Oregon Park Apartment Club House polling place. “I don’t understand it.” 

Part of the problem may be a snafu with the Department of Motor Vehicles on Claremont Avenue in Oakland which received complaints from 30 to 40 voters last month who said they registered at the DMV office but never received sample ballots in the mail.  

Sandy Creque, a spokesperson for the Registrar of Voters, said another reason for the unusual number of provisional ballots may be the highly contested election. Voters came out to cast ballots who have not voted in 10-15 years. Creque said their names may have been taken of the rolls and put into an inactive file. 

“I’ve been here for 34 years and I’ve never seen such a huge turnout,” Creque said. “People saw that their vote really mattered.” 

A glitch in Berkeley Tuesday night, held up the release of the semi-official vote. According the Registrar of Voters Brad Clark, because of a broken ballot counting machine, known as a card reader, the count was held up for a least an hour. The card reader was located in the Florence Schwimley Theater on the high school campus. 

Normally the card reader counts local ballots and electronically sends the results to the registrar’s office in Oakland. But Tuesday night, those ballots that were not counted, were driven to Oakland where they were counted on card readers in the Registrar’s Office. 

The semi-final results of Berkeley’s 110 precincts weren’t announced until some time after 2 a.m. Wednesday morning. According to Clark the semi-final results are usually available between midnight and 1 a.m.