The day after an election, particularly a presidential one, is always a bit harried for Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold and her team.
But Ginnold said today is more than hectic than in years past, particularly because of the record-high number of provisional ballots issued in Marin precincts on Election Day. The huge numbers of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be counted has the outcome of the 10th State Assembly District race, in which Marc Levine holds a slight lead over Michael Allen, hanging in the balance.
“We were just amazed at the number of provisional ballots that people needed yesterday,” Ginnold said, noting that provisional ballots were triple the amount issued in the June primary election. “That was really the most unexpected and amazing thing. I kept thinking, ‘What is going on out there?’”
Ginnold said her office sent 15,000 provisional ballots to Marin precincts this year, 5,000 of which came in last-minute requests from poll workers.
Provisional ballots are issued if a vote-by-mail voter shows up at the polls without their ballot or if a voter goes to the wrong polling place. The high turnout – Ginnold projects it to be about 85 percent after an additional 40,000 mail-in ballots are counted in the next several days – caused more cases of both, she said. The shifting of precinct boundaries due to redistricting also had plenty of voters showing up at the wrong polling place, Ginnold said.
But it’s the ever-increasing number of mail-in ballots that is driving the post-election cleanup, Ginnold said. For the 2008 election, 95,922 mail-in ballots were issued, accounting for 61 percent of Marin’s 155,640 registered voters, Ginnold said. That number spiked to 107,000 mail-in ballots in 2012, or 69 percent of the 155,025 registered voters this year.
As the vote-by-mail tally increases each year, so will the number of people who need to vote provisionally because they either forget to mail in their ballot or don’t bring it with them when they show up at the polls. Of the mail-in ballots issued this year, 20,000 of the aforementioned 40,000 were dropped off at the polls, Ginnold said.
“If vote-by-mail voters come to the polls and don’t have their ballot, they have to vote provisionally,” Ginnold said. “That’s the biggest reason why people are voting provisionally. And that’s the really the unintended consequence of the increase in vote by mail.”
Ginnold, who expects to have a good portion of the mail-in ballots counted by Friday afternoon, said she sees the vote-by-mail trend continuing.
“We will be prepared for that in the next big election,” she said.