A coalition of civil rights and voting advocacy groups lashed out Friday at Alameda County election officials after poll workers wrongly told more than 150 voters that their paper ballot was only a receipt and that it could be taken home, leading to the votes not being counted. The mistake, the groups allege, affected voters who visited one or more locations in Oakland to cast ballots in person between Oct. 31 and election day. “We spoke to some of the poll workers there who were really alarmed,” said Angelica Salceda, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The voting rights advocates said that some voters who showed up at a polling place on the campus of Mills College during the four-day period were told the ballot marking device they had used was keeping a digital record of their selections on federal, state and local races. In reality, the device only makes marks on a paper ballot, which the voter then must submit to an election official. Instead, poll workers “incorrectly told voters … that the printouts from the machines were ‘receipts’ that the voters should take with them, rather than official ballots that they should deposit in the ballot box,” representatives of 15 civil rights and voting rights groups wrote in a letter Thursday to Tim Dupuis, the Alameda County registrar of voters. “In general, voters who cast their ballots at Mills College were disproportionately Black, and many of the voters who had been actively encouraged by poll workers to use the [ballot marking devices] were disabled or elderly.”
How California reached historic voter turnout despite pandemic, distrust | Lewis Griswold/CalMatters
Californians faced the naysayers and voted by mail in record numbers this election, potentially avoiding a pandemic super spreader event and showing the nation it could be done. CalMatters interviewed voting officials in most of the state’s 58 counties and their verdict is in: The experiment with voting by mail saw few glitches, little drama and, instead, might well provide a blueprint for future elections across the country. Indeed, state officials are already talking about plans to make voting by mail permanent for the biggest state in the union and its 22 million registered voters. Besides the unprecedented challenge of conducting the election in a pandemic, voting officials also had to deal with a deep, partisan divide that helped to fuel widespread misinformation about election security. Yet by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. Nov. 3, voter registrars say they had little need for law enforcement help and reported insignificant incidents affecting ballot safety. They reported historic numbers of ballots cast, about 17.6 million at last count, and almost 208,000 more still to process as of 5 p.m. Monday.