Why some Sonoma County voters are getting 2 ballots

It could be more common than you think, a county election official said.|

Scott Gaynos of Penngrove was surprised to receive two vote-by-mail ballot packages for Tuesday’s primary election on the same day, but only one included a card giving him what he wanted: a chance to vote for one of the Democratic presidential candidates.

What gives, wondered Gaynos, who said he hasn’t missed voting in 50 years, even when he was working in a foreign country.

But he was more intrigued when he heard of other people who had received two ballots and intended to use both.

Turns out it is no big deal, a county elections official said.

Voters registered as No Party Preference and signed up for a mail-in ballot, like Gaynos, will automatically be sent a nonpartisan ballot that does not include presidential candidates, said Deena Thompson-Stalder, the county elections manager.

But those voters may also request a ballot for one of the three political parties - Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent - that allow participation by No Party Preference voters, she said. Gaynos said he requested a Democratic ballot.

The Republican, Green, and Peace and Freedom parties do not allow No Party Preference voters to participate in their primary balloting.

Voters sometimes receive both ballots, and may even get confused and return both with their choices marked.

“That will happen perfectly innocently,” Thompson-Stalder said. “It’s not unheard of.”

If a voter calls and asks which ballot to use, officials say return only the ballot they want counted and the other ballot will be voided, she said.

No matter what, no voter will get to vote twice, as county officials keep track of every mail-in ballot issued and will count only one.

If two mail-in ballots come back from the same voter, the second one issued will be counted, Thompson-Stalder said.

Gaynos, a businessman who works in Santa Rosa, considers that appropriate, as “each person is due one vote,” he said.

Gaynos said he’s been registered with different political parties in the past, but now prefers to be neutral.

“I’m just too independent to feel like I belong to a party,” he said.

He’s in good company as 53,222 Sonoma County voters - 22 percent of the electorate - are registered as No Party Preference.

A slightly smaller number - 50,411 - or 21 percent, are registered Republicans, and 128,710, or 52 percent, are Democrats.

Statewide, Democrats account for 44 percent of 17.3 million registered voters, with Republicans at 28 percent and No Party Preference voters at 24 percent.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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