Voters in Bakersfield may have noticed an unusual circumstance this election season. While many registered voters have received mail-in ballots, the sample ballots, which contain detailed information on local measures and candidates, have yet to arrive.
That’s because the Kern County Elections Division spent extra time fact checking and proof reading the sample ballots, sending them to the post office later than they normally go out. But county officials expect voters to receive the sample ballots by early next week, well within legal limits, even if they are a little late.
“We wanted to make sure they were accurate. It took extra time to proof them to make sure they were completely right,” said Jackie St. George, assistant registrar of voters. “In a perfect world, we like to have them go out before the ballots go out.”
She said several high-profile retirements at the Elections Division had prompted the tardy release of the sample ballots. Elections chief Karen Rhea, along with Assistant Registrar of Voters Abbe Shugart, Chief Deputy Registrar Sarah Webb and Elections Process Coordinator Renea Westfall all stepped down late last year, leaving the remaining election officials with large shoes to fill.
Altogether, the retirees had 120 years of experience to their name, St. George said.
Sample ballots provide key information to voters, including instructions on voting and details about ballot measures. For Kern County’s cannabis measures, Measure D and Measure E, the sample ballots appear to one of the only resources available to voters who wish to learn more about what they will be voting on.
The website, votersedge.org, provides another resource for voters interested on what will be on the ballot.
Some voters, apparently, have decided they do not need the sample ballots to make an informed decision. However, they are far from the majority.
St. George reported that less than half of 1 percent of Kern County’s nearly 400,000 registered voters had sent in mail-in ballots.
“People will wait to see if all of the candidates are going to stay or if they are going to drop out,” she said. “They tend to wait later to mail in their ballots in this particular election.”
Those hoping to register to vote still have a chance. The last day to sign up is Tuesday. Voter registration is available online at registertovote.ca.gov, and forms can be picked up at most county buildings. As long as those forms are postmarked by Tuesday, the registration will be valid.
The election is March 3.