Vote-by-mail ballots that still need to be counted at the Sacramento County Registrar's Office
SACRAMENTO, CA - Thousands of vote-by-mail ballots throughout California sit in county registrar offices right now and will never get counted.
Some signatures on ballot envelopes don't match the one on the voter registration cards, other ballots are from previous elections, but the most common reason ballots don't get counted is that they were not in the county's hands by 8 p.m. election night.
An Election Day postmark is not good enough and many counties don't notify voters their ballot won't be counted.
"I think it's a dirty little secret we're keeping from voters, quite frankly, this vote-by-mail ballot s that are too late to get counted," California Voter Foundation spokesperson Kim Alexander said. "It's very upsetting. The only thing worse than people not voting, in my view, is people who have voted, who believe their vote has been put in and is counted and it's not."
In 2008, nearly half a million ballots were not counted in the three statewide elections that year.
Los Angeles County currently has more than 6,000 late ballots, Santa Clara has nearly 2,000 and Sacramento County's count is approaching 1,500.
Voter turnout could actually be raised if late ballots were included.
Lawmakers tried to give elections officials some breathing room this year by allowing ballots postmarked close to or on Election Day to be counted, but Republicans blocked the proposal.
But with a new Democratic super-majority in the Legislature next year, it'll be easier to change election laws, and Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is determined to put postmark changes on the to-do list.
"If we're going to encourage voting by mail, which we ought to do, then we need to make sure that people who got their ballots in on time, which is Election Day, that their vote actually counts," Steinberg said.
"As long as we have this vote-by-mail system, which half the voters are participating in, we need to make it a more forgiving process," Alexander said.
With some races so tight this year, late ballots could have made a difference.
By Nannette Miranda