Measure R Loses Recount

January 10, 2005

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, Berkeley Daily Planet

The recount of Berkeley’s Measure R has left the medical marijuana initiative 166 votes short of victory, and supporters still dissatisfied with the count hoping that legal action would overturn the outcome.

Measure R spokesperson Debbie Goldsberry said that the recount uncovered hundreds of Berkeley voters whose votes were not counted because of improperly filled-out provisional ballot forms, and a thousand UC Berkeley students whose votes were not counted because their names could not be found in the Alameda County Registrar of Voters registration database.

The measure sought to end limits on the number of plants allowed to medical marijuana users and would have allowed Berkeley’s three medical marijuana institutions to move anywhere within the city’s commercial zone.

“I’m convinced that if we had properly counted all of the actual votes in Berkeley, Measure R would have won,” Goldsberry said. “But the decision of the registrar’s office is final.”

Alameda County Assistant Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said that while there were small discrepancies in the Measure R count “they had no material impact on the results of the election.”

Ginnold said that one of those discrepancies was 20 fewer ballots than the number of voters who signed in on election day at the Side B precinct station at the Northbrae Community Church on The Alameda in Berkeley. Despite a search by registrar’s office workers during the recounts, those ballots were never recovered. In addition, the voter count and actual ballots were off “by one or two votes” in a number of other Berkeley precincts. “But there will always be that type of discrepancy in any election,” Ginnold said.

The vote count discrepancies Ginnold referred to were a different issue from the uncounted votes referenced by Goldsberry.

Goldsberry said that in the case of the thousand UC Berkeley student voters not found in the database, “the students’ names may have been there, but the workers just may not have been able to find them because of the way in which they were listed and the way the workers were searching.” Goldsberry said the uncounted votes involved students who lived in UC dormitories.

She said that the largest number of improperly filled-out provisional ballot envelopes came from two Berkeley precincts. “We suspect that workers in those precincts were not giving proper instruction as to how to fill out the envelopes,” Goldsberry said. “That’s something which is just going to have to be looked out for and corrected in future elections.”

The battleground for Measure R now shifts from the counting room to the courts, where Berkeley-based Americans For Safe Access have filed a state lawsuit contesting the election. That lawsuit involves ballots cast by computer in the Nov. 2 election.

Goldsberry said that many of the uncounted paper ballot votes were discovered after the filing of the lawsuit early last week, and so will not be at issue in the legal proceedings. “We’re just going to have to suck that up.”



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