Central Valley

Modified' primary system confuses some Valley voters

California's "modified open primary" created confusion for some Valley voters and a smattering of problems for elections officials Tuesday.

Valley elections officials reported higher-than-normal voter turnout in some areas and an unusual flood of last-minute absentee voters dropping their ballots off at polling places. That could delay a complete tabulation of votes, said Fresno County Clerk Victor Salazar.

One of the big complaints surfacing Tuesday involved voters who wanted a different ballot from the one they normally would get.

The Democratic and American Independent parties opened their primaries to voters registered as "decline to state." The Republican primary was open only to registered Republicans.

Lourdes Pelayo, a technician at the Fresno County Clerk and Registrar of Voters office, said one of the big complaints she heard was registered Democrats who wanted to vote on the Republican ballot or registered Republicans who wanted to vote on the Democrat ballot.

In Tulare County, the elections office received some complaints from undeclared voters who wanted to vote Republican or didn't know they could have voted Democratic, said Paul Sampietro, Tulare County's election manager.

"That's an issue statewide, not just here," Sampietro said. "It's causing a lot of confusion for voters."

One such disappointed undeclared voter was Caloni Bjorkman, 20, who was hoping to vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in Visalia.

"I want to see a Republican in office," she said. "There are views Romney has that correlate with mine."

Poll workers in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties reported a large number of voters lining up to fill their ballots throughout the day. Kings County officials, however, said turnout appeared to be low -- and elections officials were baffled as to why.

Salazar said absentee and provisional ballots dropped off Tuesday won't be counted until today.

"There's a considerable and unusual amount of absentee ballots that are being delivered to the polling places," Salazar said.

Sampietro said some polling places reported heavier-than-normal turnout, while others said it was about the same as prior years.

In Kings County, the low voter turnout disappointed elections officials, but also provided some relief in a county that had to return to counting paper ballots, said Ken Baird, the county's assessor-clerk-recorder.

Kings County election officials still planned to work well into the night because they expected the paper ballots would slow the counting.

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