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San Carlos: Ballot snafu affects more than 2000 voters

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

A total of 2,047 voters were recently impacted by a ballot printing error that affected four school district measures in four jurisdictions, including the San Mateo Union, Honda Pescadero Unified, San Carlo and  Portola Valley school districts, according to the San Mateo County Elections Office.

It is unclear how many, if any, voters have returned corrected ballots, but considering how close recent funding measures on the Peninsula have become, the “every vote counts” mantra has never been more accurate.

In a statement Friday, San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Mark Church said his office learned of the ballot misprint on Feb. 6 and, within 48 hours, notified every affected voter and sent replacement ballots with the correct measures. An “Important Notice” with instructions was included with those ballots, according to Church.

Church said his office’s printing vendor, K&H Integrity Communications, “did not precisely follow our mapping instructions for the construction of the official ballot.”

“Either a school district measure that should have been included in a ballot was omitted, or a school district measure was omitted that should have been included,” Church added.

The misprint affected Measure N in the San Carlos School District, Measure M for the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Measure L for the San Mateo Union High School District, and Measure P for the Portola Valley School District.

The superintendents for all school districts were contacted about the ballot misprints, Church said.

Amber Farinha, director of enterprise and community relations for the San Carlos School District, expressed concern about the error’s impact on the election. She was informed 165 voters in the district received initial ballots that did not include Measure N.

“We want to make sure voters are aware of the error and look for their new ballot and return it before March 3,” Farinha said, adding that the district’s last measure in 2015 narrowly passed by 110 votes.

Affected voters are being asked to discard their previous ballot and use the replacement one. Ballots that have already been submitted will be discarded when the second, corrected ballot is returned, election officials said.  If voters don’t return their corrected ballot, their votes from their old ballot will still count towards measures shared between the precincts. And for those who voted on issues outside their district, those particular votes won’t count, the elections office said.

This mistake comes on the heels of a particularly tough election cycle last year where complaints of late ballots and slow counts were registered against the elections department run by Church. Also in October 2018, ballots began arriving in San Mateo County mailboxes more than a week late after a race for the Board of Education was left off the ballot. Previous to that, a race for local judgeship was omitted from the ballot.

This story has been updated with clarifications provided by the Elections Office.