A judge has determined that San Diego County didn’t follow proper procedures in an audit of the June primary election and must use a different process when verifying future contests. In a Jan. 10 judgment, San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil determined that state election law says all mail-in ballots need to be included in a manual count of votes from 1 percent of precincts. Previously the County Registrar of Voters only used mail-in ballots received by Election Day in its manual count, while excluding mail-in votes received after polls closed. All ballots – including votes cast by mail, at polling places and accepted provisional ballots – are counted toward election results, but only a small portion are used in an audit used to double-check that votes are accurately counted by automated tabulation systems. Ray Lutz, the head of government watchdog organization Citizens Oversight Inc., said in his lawsuit that all types of ballots cast, including mail-in votes received by the registrar before and after Election Day as well as provisional ballots, should be included in the manual tally to ensure that election fraud has not occurred.
The court agreed with Lutz in part. Wohlfeil determined that all legally-cast mail-in ballots can be used in its audit, regardless of when the registrar receives the returned ballot. The judge disagreed, however, that provisional ballots must also be used in the audit.
“The judge ruled provisionals do not need to be in the 1 (percent) manual tally. We agree with this. He also ruled more vote-by-mail ballots need to be included. We do not agree with this,” county spokesman Michael Workman said. The decision will make elections more expensive and could make it difficult for the Registrar of Voters to finish counting ballots ahead of deadlines included in state law, he said.