A high volume of Placer County voters slowed voting times Tuesday by trading their vote-by-mail ballots in for polling-place ballots.
The sweeping ballot anomaly caused voter confusion and longer lines across the county, according to the Placer County Office of Elections.
Officials first discovered the large number of spoiled ballots in Roseville. "We immediately let our poll workers in Roseville know what to do," said Ryan Ronco, assistant registrar of voters. Roseville pollworkers began reporting problems at 1 p.m.
Officials suspect a local political group urged its members to switch ballots so votes would be counted on Election Day, and not later.
"It was kind of siphoning off some of those ballots that we had planned for… it really gummed up our system really quickly," said Ronco, who would not confirm which organization he thought promoted the ballot exchange. However, KCRA Channel 3 News reported Tuesday night local Tea Party members directed voters to make the switch.
Ronco estimates voters destroyed about a thousand ballots. Wednesday, staff were researching exactly how many surrendered ballots were turned into poll workers.
Many exchanging their ballots were concerned their votes wouldn't be counted on voting day, Ronco explained. Elections staff often count vote-by-mail ballots after the Election Day, but Ronco insisted, those votes are still valid.
"We’ve never had a situation (before) where political groups are encouraging voters to surrender their ballots and vote on new ballots," said Ronco.
Ronco said voters were never in any danger of not being able to vote. State law requires each polling place to have at least one touchscreen voting machine.
Just after midnight Wednesday morning, Ronco said, "I don’t think it’s delaying (results) considerably we were anticipating to have all precincts reported by 1 a.m. in the morning." The county office had results with 100 percent of the precincts reporting by 1 a.m. Official results are expected to be released within 28 days and likely will be ready before Thanksgiving, said Ronco.