Elections officials throughout California missed a deadline to send 8,250 ballots to overseas and military voters for next week’s presidential primary, prompting a lawsuit and swift settlement over the weekend between the state officials and the U.S. Department of Justice. Eleven of the state’s 58 counties violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act by failing to send ballots to voters abroad on April 21 – 45 days before the primary. While about 5,450 of the late ballots were sent out within two days of missing the deadline, some were delayed as much as a week. On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit [PDF] against California for missing the deadline, but Secretary of State Debra Bowen reached an agreement on the matter that same day, federal officials said. As part of the settlement, the secretary of state’s office will hold training sessions with at least one election official in each county before the general election in November.
David Tom, elections manager for San Mateo County, said his county was on schedule to send ballots to the 739 overseas voters who requested their ballots through the mail. But at the last minute, a county Board of Supervisors candidate had to be removed from the ballot. “Every ballot had to be reprinted,” Tom said. “That may have caused us to miss the deadline date.”
San Mateo County has 2,266 overseas voters in the military, Tom said. The majority of them requested their ballot electronically, but the county was six days late in physically mailing the rest of the ballots. “It was not something that we did intend,” Tom said.