San Bernardino County voters will receive their mail ballots later than normal due to an error by a vendor used by the county Elections Office, Registrar of Voters Michael J. Scarpello said Tuesday. Voters should receive ballots by the end of this week at the latest, he said.
"Because of a vendor error," Scarpello told the Daily Press, "they had a one-day delay in their shipment (to the post office), so they didn't start arriving last Friday, they started arriving last Saturday."
The elections office ultimately sent 485,000 voter ballots to the post office; big shipments on Saturday and Sunday and a small shipment Tuesday.
"The post office should have all the ballots as of today," Scarpello said.
But it was unclear exactly how much delay will be caused by missing Friday's expected delivery, as Scarpello wasn't familiar with the post office's internal process, and a message left with the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday to glean the delivery timeline was not immediately returned.
The error and subsequent delay, however, has caused concern among some local political candidates, with one suggesting that significant sums of money were spent by office-seekers to get their message out and time campaign mailers with the delivery of voter ballots.
Scarpello also said the elections office since 2012 has intentionally sent out both mail ballots and voters guides later than usual in order to reduce provisional ballots. These ballots, according to the California Secretary of State, are cast by voters who believe they're registered but their names don't appear on the list at a polling place or they vote by mail but did not receive their ballot or don't have it with them and instead wish to vote at a polling place.
Provisional ballots are counted after elections officials confirm voter registration and that the voter had not already cast a ballot.
According to Scarpello, California's number of provisional ballots was top in the country when he came on board in 2011, and San Bernardino County's numbers were near the top within the state. In 2012, the county began sending out voter guides 32 days before an election and mail ballots 25 days prior, even as the state allows guides and mail ballots to be sent 40 days and 29 days prior, respectively.
The thinking behind the strategic move was simple: individuals who received their voter guides later were less likely to lose them and "we wanted that one-week separation" between receipt of the voter guide and mail ballot, Scarpello said.
It proved to be successful, he added, because in 2012, this county saw a 4-percent reduction in provisional ballots as rates skyrocketed 32 percent in other counties in the state.
"This has been a strategy of ours since 2012 and it has been an effective one in reducing those provisional ballots," he said.
He urged voters who still don't receive a mail ballot by Friday to contact the Registrar of Voters at 909-387-8300.
Shea Johnson can be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.