Last-minute ballots present challenge for Nevada County election officials |

Last-minute ballots present challenge for Nevada County election officials

Laura Brown
Sun News Service

Photo for The Union by John HartWorkers Tuesday evening at the Nevada County Election office check in the mail in ballots left at the office during the day.

GRASS VALLEY “-The downside of the convenience and cost savings of mail ballots was apparent Wednesday: Election officials spent the day after Election Day counting thousands of vote-by-mail ballots that were handed in at the last minute.

Though the ballots were sent out Oct. 6, people waited too long to mail them back. Instead, they hand delivered them to polling places or the Elections Office in the Rood Administrative Center ” slowing down the count.

In the final days before Nov. 4, about 700 mail ballots arrived daily, each one requiring a relatively tedious process to check it in and verify the signature, election workers said.

“I just don’t know why people do what they do,” said acting Assistant Clerk-Recorder Gail Smith, referring to the practice of signing up for a mail ballot but waiting until the last day to hand deliver it.

The outcome of some close races, such as the 4th District congressional race between Democrat Charlie Brown and Republican Tom McClintock, hangs in the balance.

As of late Wednesday, the Elections Office count of mail ballots stood at 6,677. The office counted 1,324 provisional ballots and 856 damaged ballots.

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In the coming month, the office will devote its energy to certifying votes that were cast during a canvass period that ends Dec. 2.

Many voters said they just got too busy or forgot. Some voters bringing in their mail ballot to the Elections Office on Tuesday were reissued a paper ballot, and the citizen voted on the spot ” helping to speed the counting process.

“The ballots could make a huge difference (in close races). Who knows what’s inside those envelopes?” said election worker Beth Goodrich.

Election Day went smoothly despite incidents such as a power failure in Glenshire that put one voting machine out of commission for about 10 minutes, Smith said.