Fresno Co. ballot mistake could force election do-over

FRESNO. Calif.

Every single ballot in Fresno County has the wrong wording on Proposition 23 -- the one to suspend the state's greenhouse gas emissions law.

Local election officials call it just a simple oversight, but Prop 23 supporters say it could force a whole new election on the issue.

Fresno County election officials go to great lengths to sort through ballots, verify signatures, and make sure votes are correct and counted.

But when voters look at their November ballot, they'll see one significant mistake.

"We didn't catch the corrected version and we printed the ballot with the original version," said elections clerk Victor Salazar. He's talking about this one word in Prop 23: "polluters."

Supporters sued and force the state to change the wording to say Prop 23 would suspend laws requiring major "sources of emissions" to report and reduce greenhouse gases.

Fresno County printed its ballots with the original word "polluters" instead.

"This is what we call in legal terms is 'harmless error,'" said ABC-30 political analyst Tony Capozzi. "What kind of effect will it have on the election? Slim to none."

The ballot measure is losing badly in recent polls and Capozzi says the votes in Fresno County won't change the outcome.

But prop 23 supporters disagree. "Fresno County is a county of significant size in California and in a close election, its vote, now tainted by this serious error, could call into question the state results and possibly give rise to an election contest and require a new statewide election on Proposition 23," said attorney Colleen McAndrews in a letter to Salazar.

"This is just a desperate attempt by the people who support the proposition," said Capozzi. "I don't think the election will be close on this issue, but what they're doing is setting up a possible challenge."

Salazar found out about the mistake Thursday.

He says it's too late to reprint the ballots, so he's planning to post correction notices at every polling place.

So, the results will tell the tale. If the vote is close, McAndrews says an election challenge is likely and we might have to vote all over again.

And Prop 23 isn't the only Fresno County election mistake.

Ballots also include uncorrected wording in the fiscal analysis on Prop 22, but the proposition itself is right.

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