Yolo County Elections
REASON FOR REVIEW
The Grand Jury reviewed the Elections Office
to determine whether Yolo County elections are conducted fairly
and accurately, focusing on how, if at all, Yolo County is protected
from the kinds of mistakes and problems seen in Florida in the
November 2000 election.
The Elections Office is responsible, under state
and federal election laws, for registering voters, selecting the
equipment and ballots used in elections, finding polling places,
recruiting and training pollworkers, counting votes, and reporting
results to the public. The office is directed by the Clerk-Recorder,
assisted by a deputy clerk recorder and six full-time election
workers. In the days before and after elections, when more people
are needed, part-time workers swell the staff of the office.
The city clerks in Davis, West Sacramento,
Winters, and Woodland work closely with the Elections Office year-round
and share responsibility for elections in their cities.
Some statistics may help illustrate the scope
of the Elections Office's job. In November 2000, 83,385 people
had registered to vote in Yolo County. Of that number, 61,950,
or 74.2 percent of registered voters, voted in the November 2000
election, and 15,668, or 18.7 percent of them, voted by absentee
ballot. To prepare for that election, 64,355 ballots were printed.
Most of the Elections Office budget comes from the
county general fund, supplemented by reimbursement from the state
for certain state-mandated costs and reimbursement from municipalities
and districts for the costs of their elections.
I . To increase enfranchisement, Califomia law encourages people
to register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver's license.
2. California law. allows for provisional voting: voters who,
on arriving at their polling place, find their names are not on
the rolls may vote provided they meet certain criteria. Their
seated ballots are segregated from the ballots of registered voters
whose names do appear on the rolls, and they are counted only
if the Elections Office determines that the voters were in fact
eligible to vote.
3. To reduce the likelihood of fraudulent voting, the Elections
Office compares absentee and provisional voters' signatures with
scanned images of the signatures on their registration cards,
as required by state law.
4. The Elections Office must adhere to the strict procedures of
the federal Voting Rights Act before removing a voter from the
rolls. California law requires counties to notify each other when
voters move, but there is no federal law that requires this kind
of notification between states.
5. During a 30-day canvass period following each election, the
Elections Office performs a hand count of random samples of ballots,
following a formula dictated by state law, to verify the accuracy
of the election-night machine count. The canvass period is also
when the legitimacy of provisional votes and absentee votes not
counted on election night is verified and those ballots are counted.
6. Yolo County uses the Datavote voting machine, which uses a
staple-like tool to punch holes through ballots, leaving no partially
7. Ballots are imprinted with each issue and candidate, eliminating
the confusion that occurs in counties that print only reference
numbers on their ballots.
8. Because the Datavote punches cleanly and because Yolo County
uses ballots that identify candidates and propositions, voters
can clearly see how they voted when they remove their ballots
from the machine.
9. Between elections, voting machines are stored by Sequoia Printing
Company, which cleans and inspects the machines and certifies
that they are functioning properly before each election.
10. Converting to touchscreen voting would cost Yolo County at
least $3 million, and there are unresolved concerns about the
security and practicality of this technology.
11. Finding a sufficient number of polling places is a chronic
problem, particularly for countywide elections in which turnout
is expected to be high.
12. Recruiting a sufficient number of pollworkers is a chronic
problem. State law requires three pollworkers present at all times
at each site, so the county assigns four workers per site to allow
for the breaks workers will need during a workday that can exceed
13. Current pay for pollworkers ranges from $60 to $75 per election,
depending on the level of responsibility they undertake. Pollworkers
are also paid $10 for attending a training class prior to the
election, and they may be reimbursed for their mileage.
14. On election night, ballots arrive at the Elections Office
escorted by sheriff's deputies. Boxes of ballots are time-stamped
and logged in on arrival. All ballot handling and vote counting
is done by at least two people working together in public view.
A continuous video feed of the count can be viewed on election
night on the Office's web site (wwwyoloelections.org).
15. To help its staff keep abreast of new laws, technological
advances, and general trends, the Elections Office belongs to
a state association of election officials and registrars. All
staff attend a conference on new laws each year. The Office also
belongs to a national organization that sponsors university classes
that allow election officials to become certified.
16. City clerks in Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland
are in frequent contact with each other and have good working
relationships with Elections Office staff, although they complain
about sometimes receiving incomplete or inaccurate information
from the Office.
17. Storage and work space is inadequate.
18. According to Elections Office staff, their funding is sufficient.
1. Yolo County's Datavote system is accurate and reliable.
2. There is no pressing need for Yolo County to replace its Datavote
machines with newer, more technologically advanced equipment.
Since research and development of new technologies is underway,
it makes sense to wait until there are more and better choices
3. Given the long workday, increasing pay for pollworkers is probably
not in itself a solution to the shortage of volunteers.
4. The Grand Jury is impressed with the extensive continuing education
Yolo County provides for its Elections staff.
5. Although instances of human error are unavoidable, the Grand
Jury believes the Elections Office is assiduous in its efforts
to ensure fair, accurate elections in Yolo County.