It's not exactly the kind of Valentine's Day gift elections officials in Sacramento County probably wanted: a bag placed in a storage area that held hundreds of cast -- but uncounted -- ballots from the Nov. 6 election.
Jill La Vine, Sacramento's registrar of voters, says 407 ballots were found last week by elections officials, cast by voters among 92 different precincts across the county.
"They were in the wrong bag," says La Vine about why the ballots weren't counted. The ballots were gathered from a single polling place in South Natomas, and a poll inspector placed them in the wrong bag because the correct bag was already full.
La Vine says others were told about the ballots being in an additional bag, but the information wasn't told with enough people.
Her staff has taken a look to see whether the ballots might have changed the outcome of some of the county's hottest races -- which included a down-to-the-wire congressional contest and a couple of closely watched local ballot measures.
"They would not have changed the outcome of any races," she says. That appears to be, in part, because they came from so many different county precincts.
Sacramento County attorneys, as well as the Secretary of State's office, have already been consulted on the uncounted ballots. And all apparently agree that there's nothing that can be done.
As such, the ballots have been stored -- unopened -- with all of the other ballots from the fall election, in a locked cage in the county's election warehouse location.
Ballots going uncounted is not exactly an unheard of problem following an election. Elections officials point out voters sometimes turn ballots in too late, some ballots are damaged either by machines at precincts or in the mail, or voter signatures on absentee ballots are indecipherable.
Still, ballots sitting for more than three months in a bag... undisturbed... is unusual. There's no immediate information as to whether any similar incident has happened around the state in recent years.