The uncounted ballot story is now moving forward on several paths — legal, federal and local. The state court may decide what the county can do about these ballots, but the federal congressional delegation is trying to develop and new policy with the U.S Postal Service, while Assemblyman Brian Nestande is trying to navigate new state legislation to avoid future repetitions of the situation.
Yesterday, the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee and three Moreno Valley voters filed a suit against Riverside County Registrar of Voters, Barbara Dunmore, to “prohibit [her] from refusing to count and include in the certified vote tally ballots hat were in the hands of he U.S. Postal Service and available for pick up before 8 p.m. on June 8, 2010.”
Dunmore maintains and the suit confirms that state law requires ballots be with election officials before the polls close in order to be counted.
However, the plaintiffs argued that in 2002 after the 2000 presidential elections (Bush and Gore were the major party candidates), California voters adopted Proposition 43, which amended the state constitution with the following language:
“A voter who casts a vote in an election in accordance with the laws of this State shall have that vote counted.”
The voters in the suit maintain they mailed their ballots days before the deadline, the ballots are among the uncounted 12,563 and the only reason they were not in election officials hands was confusion between the Postal Service and Dunmore’s office, according to their attorney James C. Harrsion
The suit was filed Thursday afternoon, an early hearing Thursday morning, the Judge issued an injunction extending the time Dunmore has to submitted the County’s certified vote totals to the Secretary of State. Judge Mac Fisher will have a hearing Friday July 9 to consider the merits of the case.
While the judiciary addresses the outcome of the 12,500 ballots uncounted from the June 8 primary, Assemblyman Brian Nestande has submitted legislation to ensure the problem does not occur in the future.
His bill A.B. 2642 would grant authority to count a ballot with a postmark on or before election day, just as one’s tax return is not late if post marked by April 15.
If a senate committee does not hear the bill tomorrow, Friday, July2, Nestande’s effort may wither for this year, according to his Chief of Staff Rob Flanigan.
If the state legislature does adopt the proposal it will not be in effective until January 1, thus it will not apply to this fall’s general election on Nov. 2.
Last week, four members of the California congressional delegation wrote to John Potter, the Postmaster General, asking him to respond to a series of questions about the Poster Service’s role in collecting, delivering and protecting the mail ballots.
They asked some general questions about the USPS policies and several specific questions about what happened in Riverside County last month. Such as, “What communications regarding the handling of the vote-by-mail ballots occurred between the USPS and Riverside County Registrar’s Office prior to the 2010 Statewide Primary election?”
The members signing the letter were Many Bono Mack (R 45), Ken Calvert (R 44), Darrell Issa (R 49) and Jerry Lewis (R 41).
Separately, Riverside County Executive Officer William Luna is conducting an internal investigation and will submit a report to the Board at its July 13 session.