Fresno · Politics

Fresno Co. grapples with swath of duplicate ballots issued to voters

Some Fresno County voters are receiving duplicate ballots ahead of California’s Super Tuesday presidential primary next week.

Two years after Madera County served as a pilot county, Fresno County has switched over to a new system under California Voter’s Choice Act, which was enacted in 2016.

The Act is presented as a law that will modernize elections by granting greater flexibility and convenience for voters by implementing three changes:

  • All registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail that they can either return by mail or to a ballot drop off location.
  • Traditional polling places are replaced by new vote centers where any registered voter can visit. 
  • Early, in-person voting is open at certain vote centers. 

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth was on the receiving end of questions by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors over duplicate ballots being sent out in the mail during its meeting Tuesday morning.

Orth said that over 70,000 people have voted so far, which is a sizeable increase over the Nov. 2018 general election, which had 52,000 returned ballots eight days in advance.

“We have had some issues as we’ve made this transition,” Orth said. “As you know, we have had some duplicate ballots issued. However, we have put procedures in place to prevent a voter from voting more than once.”

Orth said the duplicate ballots is not a widespread situation and makes up less than 0.5 percent of the electorate in Fresno County.

According to Political Data, Inc. – a firm that compiles voter data – 478,125 ballots were mailed out to voters. That places the number of duplicate ballots distributed up to 2,390.

“I think what’s really important here is yes, duplicate ballots were issued,” Orth said. “That wasn’t what anyone wanted to happen. But I think the important thing is, what do we do about it? What I did about it is I immediately put into place additional procedures so that when these ballots get returned to me in their envelopes, before they’re ever processed, they’re isolated.

“I know who they are, and we will look at each one of them to make sure that no one votes twice and that only one ballot is counted. I think that’s a really important thing. We don’t want anyone voting twice. This is a lot of additional work from my department, and we’re committed to seeing it through.”

Over 68,000 of mail ballots have been processed, Political Data reports. Republican voters returned 33,514 ballots, compared to 23,234 from Democrats and 11,568 from Independents and other groups.

The age group of 65 and older was mailed the least amount of ballots, 107,129, but holds a large lead having returned 32,277 so far. The group of voters aged 50-64 is second having returned 18,096 ballots, followed by 35-49 at 10,125 ballots and 18-34 at 7,818 ballots.

If voters do not want to return their ballots by mail, they can return them to one of the 43 drop boxes in the county, which have been implemented by the Voter’s Choice Act. The locations can be found here.

As for the new voting centers, 10 locations opened last Saturday and will remain open every day through election day. The other 43 vote centers will open on Feb. 29. The locations can be found here.

“My message, if you want to go to a vote center, go now,” Orth said. “Go on the weekend. Don’t wait until election day, because there could be a line.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.