AHWAHNEE – Voters in Bass Lake School District (BLSD) Area 4 should take special note at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4. What appears to be a clerical error has resulted in an important race being left off some ballots, requiring constituents to request a provisional ballot at their polling place if they want their vote to count in the race for Wasuma Elementary-area Bass Lake School Board Trustee.
Three candidates are running for the Area 4 Trustee position: incumbent David Read, former board member Bill Freed, and challenger Dalene Stephens.
Stephens was surprised to learn recently that a map the Madera County Elections Office received from the Bass Lake School District is inaccurate, which resulted in the three-way race for District 4 to be entirely left off the ballots the Elections Office printed and mailed out to certain constituents.
“After receiving the list of constituents and their addresses for campaign use, we noticed that Goldside was included in Area 4. According to the district map on the school district website, Goldside is not supposed to be included. So we contacted the County Elections office and were told the map they had was accurate based on what was given to them from BLSD.”
According to Stephens, the map on the district website shows that only the area from Road 600 to Mariposa County line is included in Area 4, while Goldside, Deer Creek, or anything southwest of Road 600 are not included.
“The area also includes everything northeast of Harmony Lane, including some parts of Miami Highlands,” explains Stephens. “The list we have includes Goldside, when it shouldn’t. It appears as though Road 619 is considered Trustee Area 5, according to the County Elections Office, which means there is a conflict with the map on the Bass Lake School District website. Road 619 is supposed to be Area 4.”
BLSD Superintendent Glenn Reid says the mix-up occurred in part because this is the inaugural race for the District following a big change two years ago.
“This is the first year we’ve done an election by area,” explains Reid. “We previously voted ‘at large,’ meaning you had to live in a certain area as a district board member, but the entire district voted on all of the board members. Now, because of the 2012 Voter’s Rights Act in California we have an election by area.”
Superintendent Reid says that, following the passage of the Voter’s Right Act, BLSD hired a demographer to create two different area maps for the Board to vote on. Each of five areas must have roughly the same number of registered voters and a balanced make-up in terms of ethnicity, income and other demographic parameters.
“We had two versions to choose from. The Board elected to go with version one, but version two was sent to the elections bureau by the Madera County Office of Education. We think that is where the problem is. The individuals that have come forward live in current Area 4. On version two, the one we did not choose, they were on Area 5, and vice versa.”
Unknown is precisely how many people in the District are affected by the map mistake.
“One of the reasons the District adopted trustee areas was so whoever ran in that area represented that area,” Stephens says. “What we are seeing is the areas that are supposed to be represented from Wasuma area are not being represented. We now have families who cannot vote when they are supposed to. We also have many families who are not supposed to vote, now able to.”
Her hope is to get the word out so that those within Area 4 will be able to vote. Most people, according to Stephens, may not even notice that their ballot might be missing an important race.
That’s the problem currently faced by Stephens, her running mates, the District and the Elections Office. So, what’s the solution?
“For those people who have not yet voted by mail, and the people who are going to go to the polls, they should find out if the school district contest is on their ballot,” counsels Madera County Clerk/Recorder/Registrar of Voters, Rebecca Martinez.
“If the BLSD contest is not on their ballot, and they believe it should be, voters should ask the poll worker to issue them the ballot that has the school district race, and they will have to vote a provisional ballot.”
According to Martinez, every polling location has the ability to issue a provisional ballot, meaning that the ballot is in question. Poll workers have no way of knowing what the area boundaries are, so it will be up to the Elections Office to verify the addresses.
“It’s a very difficult and complicated process to determine if they’re in Area 4 or not. Each district is required to provide us with their area boundaries. We can only rely on the information provided to us, and it’s up to the district to make that determination. This election is going forward on Tuesday as planned and we’re trying to do the best with the information we have. We want to ensure that people are not disenfranchised and are able to vote for everything they’re entitled to.”
Provisional ballots must be counted within 28 days of the election, with an official canvas to reconcile the books.
The bottom line? If you believe you are entitled to vote in Tuesday’s election for District 4 Trustee with the Bass Lake School District, you must surrender your ballot at the polling site and ask to be issued a provisional ballot.