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Berkeley Experiences Election Day Glitches

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 08, 2008

Berkeley wasn’t exempt Tuesday from election-day glitches due to technical and human error. 

Election officials ran out of Democratic ballots at four different polling places in the city: two polling stations at the Veteran’s Memorial Building on Center Street, the polling station at the Lutheran Church of the Cross on University Avenue, and the YWCA on Bancroft Way near campus. 

“There were 14 precincts countywide that ran out of ballots,” said Guy Ashley, spokesperson for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. “[Registrar] Dave Macdonald ordered 14 polling places to stay open after consulting with a judge.” 

“A ballot shortfall sent us scrambling,” Ashley said, adding that Macdonald didn’t have to consult a judge to keep the polling place doors ajar.  

California law says “at 8 p.m., anybody in line should be allowed to vote,” he said.  

Most of the polling places kept open while waiting for extra ballots to be delivered were closed by 9 p.m., Ashley said.  

He said he thought a factor in running out of ballots was the large number of people who voted provisionally at polling places where they were not listed as registered to vote. He said he believed that many of them were not registered at all.  

“There were more voters than entitled to vote who showed up,” Ashley surmised. 

These ballots are put aside, signatures verified and votes counted separately. It will be several weeks before all the provisional ballots are tallied. 

Gary Crumback of northeast Berkeley ran into another problem. He was one of the earliest voters at his precinct at the Northbrae Community Church at 941 The Alameda. When the first voter went to slide his paper ballot into the scanner, his ballot jammed the machine.  

“It wouldn’t accept any more,” Crumback told the Daily Planet.  

The scanner still was on the blink when the Planet went by the polling place at about 10:30 a.m. Poll workers said they had called at 7:30 a.m. and were told a technician would come out.  

About 100 people had voted by that time, according to poll worker Ned Dairiki. The ballots were being kept in a locked box, he said. 

Asked about the problem at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Ashley downplayed the seriousness of the situation. “There are 810 polling places [in the county],” he said. “Occasionally a piece of machinery doesn’t work.” 

He said he went out to a site earlier in the day at the student union on the UC Berkeley campus that had reported a scanner problem and found the machine was not plugged in.  

Over at San Pablo Park, a Planet reporter overheard a poll worker tell a person who had registered “Decline to State” that she could not give her a Democratic Party ballot. The reporter intervened, assuring the poll worker that the voter had a right to the Democratic ballot. The individual was able to vote. 

“Poll workers are trained to allow crossover for Democrats and American Independents. They have classes three to four weeks before the elections,” Ashley said.