Santa Monica City Hall sends faulty voting materials to Malibu


City and county election officials are imploring Malibu voters to stick to their county-issued voting materials when they mark their ballots after it was discovered that numbers in Santa Monica-issued materials did not correspond to Malibu ballots.

The problem is confined to two voting groups in Malibu who participate in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District election.

Vote-by-mail ballots include a voter guide that shows the names of candidates or measures and a corresponding number. To vote for that candidate or measure, a voter bubbles in an oval next to the number that indicates their choice.

Ballot positions for the school board candidates and a local bond measure in the Santa Monica Supplemental Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet released by City Hall correspond to a Santa Monica ballot that also includes the Santa Monica City Council race. That contest appears before the school board race on the Santa Monica ballot.

That means that the numbers next to the names of the six school board candidates and Measure ES are higher than they are on the Malibu ballot, which does not include that race.

The City Clerk’s office discovered the error when a Malibu voter called and compared the two documents, said Sarah Gorman, Santa Monica’s City Clerk.

The supplemental pamphlets were mailed out in October.

“We just want to make sure we get the message out to the Malibu vote-by-mail voters to use the official county ballot and not the informational ballot,” Gorman said.

If voters completed their ballots using the incorrect numbers, but have not yet mailed it, they may destroy the ballot and get another one either from the county or at the polls, according to a release by the City Clerk’s Office.

Those that have already mailed in their ballots may be out of luck, said Efrain Escobedo, manager of Governmental and Legislative Affairs with Los Angeles County.

“If they have already sent them in, no,” Escobedo said. “We’re working with the city right now and looking at making sure that this doesn’t impact their contest.”

The pamphlet sent out by City Hall was not official voter information, Escobedo said, and voters should rely only on county-issued materials when marking their ballots.

There are 4,000 people who receive vote-by-mail ballots in the impacted voter groups, Escobedo said.

The race for three open spots on the Board of Education is hotly contested between three candidates from Malibu and three incumbents from Santa Monica.

The potential problem with vote-by-mail ballots left Malibu candidate Craig Foster worried.

“I’m not really sure what this means, but I’m concerned,” he said. “I’m also concerned about what the authorities are going to do if there’s been misvoting as a result of this mistake in the supplemental.”

This article originally appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press.