BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — June’s primary election was the first time voters handed in ballots since we’ve seen a group of residents consistently express concerns about our elections process at Board of Supervisors meetings.
Many concerns after the primary focused on Kern’s high number of provisional ballots and the county’s signature verification process.
We’re taking a look at Kern’s numbers, how they compare to other counties and what it all means heading into November.
Provisional ballots are frequently issued when a person shows up to vote in-person at the polls, but does not bring the ballot he or she received in the mail to surrender.
“The poll worker at the poll site doesn’t know whether they voted by mail ballot, so they can’t just let them vote again, because they could potentially vote twice,” Kern County Auditor-Controller-County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Mary Bedard said.
Compared to counties with a similar number of registered voters, Kern ranked first in total provisional ballots with 4,196. Total provisional ballots includes those counted and those rejected.
The next in line, San Francisco County, came in with almost 1,000 fewer. One County of similar voter size, San Mateo, did not provide it’s number.
Number of total provisional ballots in 2022 primary according to each county’s elections department:
Kern County: 4,196
San Francisco County: 3,329
San Joaquin County: 546
Fresno County: 7
Sonoma County: 81
Bedard says Kern’s lack of equipment leads to it’s high provisional figure, noting Kern still uses paper rosters at poll sites while many other counties’ rosters are electronic.
“They can tell right in real time, yes, this person has voted and therefore you know they’re not entitled to vote again or no, they haven’t,” Bedard said.
Bedard says Kern should have the electronic roster system by the November general election, which she believes will help with the county’s number of provisional ballots.
Meanwhile, challenged ballots are votes that are not counted for reasons including the signature on the ballot envelope does not match the one on file, the voter did not provide a signature at all, or the ballot arrived too late.
In cases where a signature doesn’t match or is missing, the elections department sends a letter to the voter giving them a chance to send a new signature back.
“And we did get quite a few of those,” Bedard said.
Kern County had the lowest number of challenged ballots at 568 compared to similar counties with challenged ballot figures all in the thousands.
Number of vote-by-mail challenged ballots not counted in 2022 primary according to each county’s elections department:
Kern County: 568
San Francisco County: 3,056
San Joaquin County: 2,339
Fresno County: 2,595
Sonoma County: 1,775