Missing absentee ballots cause confusion

Absentee ballots some voters in Tulare County expected to receive ahead of the general election never arrived, and one voter says his name disappeared entirely from the county’s voting rolls.

No Record Found

Frank Hill, who has lived at and voted from the same address in Tulare for the last five years, says he grew concerned when his roommate’s mail-in ballot and voter information guide arrived at their home, but his didn’t. When he contacted the Tulare County Elections Office, he says the woman he spoke to told him his name wasn’t in the county’s records.

“She said it appears you’re no longer on the voting rolls,” Hill said of his visit to the Elections Office in Visalia.

He says the clerk also told him his wasn’t the only expected mail-in ballot that was never sent.

“That’s what she told me, that it wasn’t an isolated incident,” Hill said.

Others who have voted by mail in the past, including Danielle Glispey of Exeter, also failed to receive the ballots they were expecting. Glispey said she has not recently changed address or had any other reason to change her voter registration, yet when she contacted the county, they had no record of her request for an absentee ballot.

“They said that I wasn’t signed up to receive my absentee ballot,” she said. “It was weird because I’ve been voting that way for years.”

Voters Not Lost

Registrar of Voters Michelle Baldwin says she doesn’t know what happened in those two particular instances, but a small number of missing ballots is common.

“You always have it in every election,” she said.

She was also emphatic voters are not being dropped from the rolls.

“We’re not losing voters off the record. They’re still registered to vote,” she said of those who have complained about missing ballots. “They’re coming in and getting their ballots, so we’re not losing them.”

Report Missing Ballots

Still, Baldwin says there is no way for election officials to know how many would-be voters did not get the vote-by-mail ballots they were expecting.

“Unless they notify us that they didn’t receive their ballot, how are we going to know they didn’t receive their ballot?” she said. “If someone loses their ballot or they don’t get their ballot, it’s not done intentionally. If they come and bring it to our attention, we’ll try to find out what happened, why it didn’t happen.”

Anyone who did not receive the mail-in ballot they were expecting should contact the Elections Office at (559) 624-7300.

That’s what happened when an expected ballot failed to appear in the mailbox at the Adams family home in Tulare.

“My husband didn’t get one, but everyone else in the house did,” Tasheena Adams said. “He called, and they sent one.”

That’s the preferred outcome, Baldwin said.

“We try to make sure everyone gets a right to vote,” she said.

DMV Errors

At least some of the problem can likely be traced back to the state’s new Motor Voter law, which began automatically registering customers to vote in April. More than 23,000 errors in those registrations have been discovered, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Those errors have effected voters in Tulare County, Baldwin said.

“People who’ve gone down to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for whatever reason, to get a driver’s license, there’ve been some issues with those registrations,” she said.

At least one Tulare County resident, Tania Gomez of Visalia, said her mail-in ballot didn’t arrive after she registered to vote through the DMV following a recent move. Rebecca Kirkman, also of Visalia, says she and her husband didn’t update their information at the DMV after their recent move, but did inform the post office.

“We moved last year, and I think the post office asked if we wanted to re-register when we did a change of address,” she said. “My husband didn’t get his ballot, though he doesn’t usually vote by mail.”

Yet Frank Hill, the Tulare resident who says his registration data was completely wiped, says none of this applies to his case.

“It wasn’t like a DMV sleight-of-hand or anything,” he said.

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