Approximately 2,046 San Mateo County voters, including people set to vote on a Portola Valley School District parcel tax measure, received incorrect March 3 ballots because of a printing error, according to the county Elections Office.
Affected voters were sent replacement ballots two days after Elections Office officials learned about the error on Feb. 6. It occurred when the ballot printing vendor did not follow the county's mapping instructions for the ballot, Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County's assistant chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk recorder, said in an email.
Some voters received ballots with one measure when they should have received another, while some received a measure where there should have been none, Irizarry said. Others received ballots with a missing measure, he said.
For example, some Woodside voters received ballots without the school district's Measure P, a ballot initiative to renew a parcel tax that currently generates about $1.2 million annually for classroom programs and teaching staff, according to county records. Voters in other precincts set to vote on Measure P received ballots with La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District’s parcel tax measure instead, according to the county.
All voters who live within the school district boundaries – which go beyond those of the town of Portola Valley – can vote on Measure P. The district includes Woodside residents who live in the Skylonda and Skywood Acres neighborhoods and off Philips and Family Farm roads and part of Mountain Home Road. See a map of the school district boundaries here.
The Elections Office called 1,219 voters and emailed 944 voters about the misprint, Irizarry said. Elections officials sent a notice about the misprint to all affected voters with their replacement ballots, he said.
"We have no concern of a voter's selection being counted on a measure they were not meant to receive," Irizarry said. "Our system can identify whether it was sent by an affected voter, and whether it is the misprint ballot. Those ballots are set aside and, if no second ballot is received during the voting period, it will be 'duplicated' by our staff. In the duplication process, staff will take a blank ballot of the correct style, which the voter should have received originally, and fill it out with the voter’s selections."
Measure P would update the district's Measure O parcel tax, which expires in June 2021. It would continue the tax at its current rate of $581 per parcel in its first year, then increase it by 3% in each following year.
The district has a message on its website informing voters of the error.
"We want to make sure that everyone in our district has an opportunity to vote," said Superintendent Roberta Zarea in an email. "We appreciate that the County has sent out replacement ballots and is working to correct the issue."
Irizarry said county elections officials met with the vendor to ensure it reprograms its administrative permissions to restrict lower-level employees from changing the county's foundational database. The database, at the vendor level, will require approval by the company's chief technology officer and the county before any changes are made, he said.
"Our relationship with our ballot printing vendor spans over 14 years and this is the first time an incident of this nature has occurred," he said. "They are one of the largest printing vendors in the United States having printed over 50 million ballots for scores of jurisdictions throughout the nation. They are amongst the best and we have an excellent working relationship."
County officials will open a request for information process to assess the county's ballot printing after the fall general election, he added.