Misplaced fears about electronic voting may be at least partly to blame for the last-second flurry of absentee ballots in Alameda County. Voters may have been under the mistaken impression that the county was still using touch-screen voting machines and that absentee ballots were the only way they could cast their votes by "paper," said Bev Harris, executive director of BlackBoxVoting.org. In truth, the county stopped using touch screens on a wide scale two elections ago, and absentee paper ballots now are scanned into computers just as the paper ballots voters cast at the polls on Tuesday.
Alameda County Registrar of Voters officials revealed earlier today that they had received up to 60,000 absentee ballots right before the election and on Election Day, both through the mail and at polling place drop-off boxes. Those ballots have yet to be counted, throwing into doubt all close races in the county.
Registrar Dave MacDonald said he expects a record number of absentee ballots cast in this election. When the counting is done, the number of total ballots may reach 365,000 countywide, of which more than 200,000 were absentees. In other words, about 55 percent of voters may have voted absentee.
MacDonald speculated that the late flood of absentees also may have been caused by voters procrastinating. "We had a very lengthy ballot that was extremely complicated," he said. "I think people - like all of us - tend to do things last-minute. We put it off until it was too late to mail, so you drop if off at the polling place."
Traditionally, absentee ballots favored moderate and conservative candidates, because absentee voters historically have been older voters. But that has changed in recent years as the popularity of absentee voting has grown dramatically. And if the late-flurry of absentee votes came from younger voters who are suspicious of electronic voting, it could end up helping liberal candidates.
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