Key information is missing from voter information guides sent out to voters, the Kern County Auditor-Controller’s Office announced Friday.
Party endorsements of certain candidates, which the state election code says must be included in information guides, were not included in the packets that were sent out to voters, the Auditor-Controller’s Office said in a news release.
The office stated that the election was too close to reprint the guide, but the Kern County Elections Division was taking steps to mitigate the oversight.
“We deeply regret this mistake and are working quickly to resolve the issue,” Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard, who also serves as the county clerk and registrar of voters, said in the release. “As soon as we confirmed the error we began working on corrective action.”
Party endorsements of candidates for voter-nominated offices, which include the state Legislature, U.S. Congress and state constitutional offices, will be posted at every polling place and at kernvote.com and kerncounty.com as well as shared on social media.
Bedard said in a phone interview the party endorsements were misfiled and did not make it to the printer.
The announcement comes within a week of Tuesday’s election, and shortly after the news that Assistant Registrar of Voters Jackie St. George is no longer working for the Elections Division.
Although county officials have not released the cause of the job change — citing its policy on personnel matters — St. George has told local media she was fired last week and not given a reason. The former assistant registrar of voters has been described as the operational chief of the Elections Division, largely in charge of making sure the election runs smoothly.
Bedard said St. George’s departure was not related to the voter guide oversight.
“We just became aware of it within the last few days, so this incident did not play any part in her no longer being here,” she said.
This is the first election the county has undertaken since the retirement of four top elections officials that each worked for the department for the last 25 to 30 years. The retirements caused some to worry that the department was not prepared for March’s election.
When sample ballots were released later than usual, suspicions arose that something was amiss at the Elections Division.
Mark Seidenberg, vice chair of the American Independent Party, which had endorsed two candidates in Kern County, said he was disgusted with the county’s actions.
He said he informed elections officials on Monday of the oversight and claimed the county could have sent postcards with party endorsements to voters before Tuesday if they had acted faster.
“They are only going to give notice to the people at the polls,” he said. “What about the majority of people that are going to vote by absentee ballots, they are not going to have any knowledge of the endorsements.”
Bedard defended the department’s track record and said she did not anticipate problems on Election Day.
“At this point, we did lose a lot of experienced people, but the people that are still here now, they have now been through a couple of election cycles and they really are dedicated and talented people,” she said. “I really do think we are ready for Tuesday and people certainly shouldn’t be concerned about the election process from the voter standpoint, and the ballot counting afterwards. We really are ready for that.”
Neither the local Republican Party nor the Democratic Party responded to requests for comment.
Bedard said the Elections Division had informed the California secretary of state of the oversight, but she was unaware if disciplinary actions would be taken.