The number of outstanding votes remaining to be counted more than doubled this week according to information released by the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters office.
No, that does not mean that they found “new” ballots.
According to San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Melinda Dubroff, the discrepancy in the numbers that were presented to the public in the unprocessed ballot report had to do with whether ballots that were dropped off at the polling places during early voting or on the day of the election were classified as “in person” ballots or vote-by-mail ballots – a distinction that was not immediately clear within the registrar’s software program.
The office worked with the vendor during the “reconciliation” process – making sure that the number of ballots on hand matched with the number of ballots that were listed – to ensure that the proper tabulation was what was being released to the public after each voting update was posted.
All of the votes that were cast by or on election day, Dubroff said, have remained locked up in a cage in a restricted area and under 24-hour video surveillance – noting that additional ballots were not located or included in the official tabulations other than those that were legally cast.
Part of the delay, Dubroff said, came from having to match the signatures to each of those ballots that were delivered in the vote-by-mail envelopes that had previously been considered in-person votes – adding an additional layer to the process.
“In-person ballots have multiple meanings to different people – when people come in and drop off their vote-by-mail ballots, they feel like they’re voting in person,” Dubroff said. “Vote-by-mail has a certain political connotation versus an in-person vote for some reason, but in the town halls that we held regarding the Voter’s Choice Act in 2019, we found that people like to come into the polling place and personally deliver their ballot – whether that’s handing it to somebody or dropping it off in an official drop box at the office.
“It became a matter of how to classify those votes in the official canvass, and the reconciliation is where we caught that.”
According to Dubroff, the reconciliation – an important step in the canvassing process where the numbers are tabulated to make sure that everything adds up – has ensured that the number of ballots of collected and the numbers of ballots that will be counted will match when it’s all said and done.
The office still has to “cure” around 1,600 votes – ballots where the signature doesn’t match the one on file and letters are mailed to voters to give them a chance to update the ballot so it will be counted – and has around 4,000 damaged or unreadable ballots that will have to be duplicated and scanned before they’re included with the final totals.
While the increase in the number of “outstanding” ballots went up from just under 19,000 ballots at the end of last week to around 39,000 on Monday night, Dubroff emphasized that those ballots were always going to be counted and have been in the possession of her office the entire time.
“We had a release on that Friday and then counted over the weekend and didn’t post again until Monday, and it would have been nice to have an additional release in there where we could have clarified what happened – these ballots have been in our possession the entire time under camera supervision in a restricted area with observers around,” Dubroff said. “It was a matter of categorizing them and the reconciliation of the ballots that were cast at voter service centers – checking to see that if we are counting the number of ballots that people actually submitted.
“And after doing that reconciliation process, the numbers do match.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.