Confusion over a new boundary line in the Atwater Elementary School District means that voters in the only contested race there may have to recast their ballots.
C. Dale Wilson beat Mary Ann Navarra by 15 votes when the unofficial results were posted Tuesday night.
But 29 homes with eligible voters didn't get proper voter guides before the election, said Karen Adams, county registrar of voters.
"We're definitely going to have to do a recount. It looks like we're going to have to hold another election," Adams said late Tuesday night. Adams will meet with the county's attorney to make sure her office moves forward according to election laws, she said.
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The disenfranchised voters live along Fruitland Avenue. According to the school district's maps, Fruitland is a dividing line with residents on the north side of the road voting in Trustee Area Five and residents on the south side voting for Trustee Area Three.
Area Five was up for election and Area Three was not.
The mistake was brought to the attention of officials by Dave Honey, an unopposed candidate for the Merced Union High School District board and Fruitland resident.
He called the elections office to ask why he never received a guide and was told there were no current races for his address. Honey knew he lived in Area Five and wanted to vote in the race. After making more calls to the school district and back to the elections office, the mistake was admitted.
Adams said corrected voting rosters were delivered to the polling place at mid-morning and no ineligible votes had already been cast (some residents in Area Three did receive voting guides and were marked as eligible voters in the Area Five race before the fix). Adams' office then tried to call each home on the north side of the road to let residents know they could vote.
The mistake might have stemmed from several school district boundaries throughout the county that were redrawn for this election to create neighborhood-based board members.
There were 61 different ballots in Merced County this election, compared to 26 in November 2007.
"I'm not saying it's an excuse," Adams said. "There's no excuse for causing any grief for any voter."
The candidates said they were disappointed with the mistake.
"It was disappointing that a mistake like that had been made because it made me wonder if things like this have happened before and we didn't know about them," Navarra said.
Both candidates said they would stay in the race if the elections are re-held.
"It's not something I was aware of until an hour before the polls closed," Wilson said. "That just totally surprises me that they would make that kind of a mistake."
Just 17 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday, but that didn't mean fewer issues for elections workers.
At 6:15 a.m., polling places in Gustine, Delhi and Livingston reported that they were each short one ballot box. Election workers delivered the missing ballot boxes by 7 a.m.
A precinct in Snelling was missing two pages of its eligible voters roster and four election computers in Merced, Delhi and Le Grand were fixed after minor problems kept them from working properly earlier in the day.
Another ballot problem in the Franklin precinct -- near Beachwood Drive and Santa Fe -- affected some voters in the Merced Union High School District race there. The precinct had no copies of a certain ballot type.
The error was the result of a mistake by the ballot printer and packager, Adams said. New ballots arrived at the polling place after a 25-minute delay.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.