Government / Politics

SBC Elections Office checking challenged ballots

Just under 600 votes still not counted, mostly due to signature discrepancies.
Letter sent to voters who had their ballot challenged because of a signature issue. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Letter sent to voters who had their ballot challenged because of a signature issue. Photo by Noe Magaña.

Update: As of Nov. 25, there are approximately 597 votes left to count before certification.

The San Benito County Elections Office is holding off on certifying local election results in order to verify challenged ballots before the Dec. 1 deadline. 

Francisco Diaz, assistant county clerk-recorder-registrar of voters, said there are about 613 ballots that need to be cured, or verified, as of Nov. 23.

Ballots can be challenged for various reasons, with signature discrepancies being the primary cause. Other reasons include receiving more than one ballot, voting in two counties and voting in San Benito while residing elsewhere. 

“Part of the reason we elected to hold off is so we give every person the opportunity to cure their ballot, those that are still pending,” Diaz said. “Some counties, like Monterey, they actually certified today. But by doing so, people can’t cure their ballots anymore.”

Diaz said certified election results will be posted by the end of the business day on Dec. 1. Of the challenged ballots, he said 523 are for signatures that do not match and 90 that lack a signature. The elections office can have up to 10 different signatures on file for seasoned voters, as its system includes signatures from the Department of Motor Vehicles, paper registrations, previous elections and other letters sent to the elections office. 

Between 400 and 500 challenged ballots with signature issues have been resolved, Diaz said. The elections office resolved an additional 100-200 ballots for other discrepancies, such as provisional ballots given to residents who registered to vote on election day and provided an address that could not be verified in the system that day.  

The San Benito County Elections Office verifies voter information, such as residence, for all provisional ballots before being counted. Diaz said 72 provisional ballots were challenged this year, and 15 will not count as the majority of those voters did not live in the county. He does not have the exact number of challenged ballots, as the system removes them when they are resolved. 

Though there was an increase in challenged ballots, it was within the normal range, Diaz said, as it reflects an increase in voter participation. He said there were about 2,000 people who registered to vote between March and November, and an additional 600-700 people registered to vote on election day. 

“This election we saw a higher turnout of people that registered on election day,” Diaz said. “It’s the highest we’ve ever seen. Most of the people that we saw were people that were new residents of San Benito County.”

In its effort to cure as many ballots as possible, the elections office also increased its outreach. Diaz said typically the Elections Office reaches out to voters with challenged ballots three times via email, phone or mail. This election cycle, up to five attempts to communicate were made. 

“The main reason [for challenged ballots], it’s because we do have processes in place that check and verify signatures,” Diaz said. “Also, we try to maintain the security and integrity of the election.”

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.