A special election is being help March 26 to pick a successor to former state Senator Ted Gaines and as we’ve come to expect in the past, the Nevada County election office has come stumbling out of the gate.
The election office announced earlier this week that ballots would be mailed about Feb. 9 and that Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley would serve as a vote center beginning March 16.
Then a correction was issued Wednesday: Ballots will be mailed no sooner than Feb. 25 and Gold Miners Inn will function as a vote center only on election day.
This stumblin’, bumblin’ approach to elections has become standard operating procedure under the leadership of county Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz. People have become so conditioned to something going wrong they are surprised when there are no screw-ups.
Ballots sent to vote-by-mail voters for the 2016 general election were missing a page listing nine of 17 state propositions and three local measures. “The page just didn’t get stuffed in the ballot by the printer,” an election office employee explained.
Managing outside vendors has been a recurring problem for Diaz’s office. Ballots in 2016 (late getting verified) and 2014 (printing error) were delayed because of screw ups that weren’t caught by Diaz’s office. Then there’s his interpretation of election law, something he’s supposed to know.
Americans for Safe Access Nevada County launched a drive in 2014 to quality a medical marijuana initiative for the ballot. State law required the promoters to obtain valid signatures of 20 percent of county residents who voted in the most recent governor’s election.
In this case, that was 2010, when 45,657 votes were cast in the county for governor. That meant the promoters needed to obtain a minimum of 9,131 valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.
But Diaz came up with another number, claiming they needed to obtain 9,928 signatures, 20 percent of all voters even if they didn’t cast a vote in the governor’s race. Diaz was the only clerk/recorder in the state to come up with that novel interpretation. Heck, local attorney Barry Pruett, who Diaz beat in the 2010 election, pointed out the mistake before Diaz conceded he was wrong.
There is only one decision for voters to make in the special election and, as of now, only two candidates to choose from, so the election office should get this one right. But past history suggests this is not a slam dunk.