Visalia residents receive incorrect ballots following recent city redistricting

Tulare County Elections Office reissues a quantity of ballots in Visalia after geographical error leaves residents with wrong ballots

TULARE COUNTY – Just over a dozen voters had their ballots reissued after a geographical error at the elections office supplied them with a ballot for the wrong district. Not only that, but an additional handful of Visalians are expected to face the same issue.

The ballots were sent out on Oct. 11 and by Oct. 17 the Tulare County Elections Office was informed of the mistake, which they were quick to address. After Visalia’s city council district lines were reestablished in the springtime of this year, 13 residents in District 3 mistakenly received ballots for District 1. This created an issue since ballots have different voting options in congressional, state senate, state assembly, school board and city council seats. However, those affected do not have to worry about any further issues with their ballots, according to Michelle Baldwin, registrar of voters for the elections office.

“The first ballot that came through, we pulled it and that won’t be counted,” Baldwin said. “So we won’t have any repercussions of any of the ballots being counted twice.”

According to Stephanie Hill, system and procedure analyst for the elections office, this issue came about because of the elections office’s geographical information system (GIS), which helps to provide the geographical locations for addresses in the county. The system mixed up two locations that are very close in proximity to each other, about a block’s distance away, so residents located on Sunnyside Court, which is in District 3 of Visalia, were mistakenly sent ballots for Sunnyside Avenue, which is in District 1.

Overall, seven addresses were affected by the mistake, but the elections office has already taken the steps to ensure the 13 individuals receive the correct ballots. The residents were informed of the situation and their reissued ballots on Oct. 18.

In addition to the 13 incorrect ballots initially sent out, the elections office was informed of an additional 101 locations affected by the error on Oct. 21, according to Baldwin. She said the office was notified by the city of Visaila’s city manager, Leslie Caviliga, of the mistake due to the 101 locations being identified under the wrong precinct. According to Hill, the error affected an additional 148 voters in District 2 and District 3. The elections office started working right away on Oct. 24 to get the issue corrected and sent the affected residents their correct ballots on Oct 25. According to Hill, voters can expect to see the reissued ballots by the end of the week.

Baldwin said this circumstance is the result of the recent redistricting that took place in Visalia after the 2020 Census, which resulted in some Visalia residents having to vote in different districts after it was changed in the springtime of this year. The elections office hired the help of a quality assurance company to help with address points but Baldwin said they were working with tight deadlines due to Census and COVID happening around the same time, which were contributing factors to the process.

According to Baldwin, there is no additional cost to resend the ballots minus the fees for postage, which is established by post offices.

Although Oct. 24 is the last day for people to register to vote for the general election, residents interested in registering or re-registering can still do so with same day voter registration, which is from Oct. 25 until election day on Nov. 8. According to the California secretary of state’s website, same day voter registration, also known as conditional voter registration in state law, is a type of “safety net” for Californians who miss the deadline when registering to vote or update their voter registration for an election.

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