Amid slow count, Los Banos district races remain up in air

11/17/2012 1:10 AM

11/17/2012 2:00 AM

The six-man race for the three seats on the Los Banos Unified School District board remains too close to call amid rumors and reports of voting mishaps.

Kent Christensen, Merced County's registrar of voters, said his crew is counting 9,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 3,000 provisional ballots countywide. Not until that count is complete will he know the number of irregularities and votes, he said.

"Until we get done, there's nothing to do about it," Christensen said.

Checking and double-checking ballots can be a lengthy process, he said, especially with provisional ballots. When a voter goes to a polling place and isn't on the roster, the voter fills out a provisional ballot. The registrar's office must check by hand if the provisional voter was registered before the vote can count.

"That's what's taking so long," Christensen said.

Christensen confirmed that some voters were given the wrong ballots at a polling place. When informed of this on Election Day, his office contacted the poll workers to make sure voters were getting the correct ballots.

If, indeed, it is determined that the number of mistaken ballots might affect the outcome of the voting, Christensen said "we would have to get direction" from legal counsel and/or California Secretary of State Debra Bowen about how to proceed.

The school district could opt to conduct a do-over election itself.

"But we're better equipped to handle it," Christensen said. "It's our responsibility."

It is not unusual for election certification to to take two to four weeks. Christensen said he is required to finish the job by Dec. 4.

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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