500 votes found in Chico State drop box a month after Election Day

More than 500 uncounted ballots were discovered in a drop box on the Chico State campus on Tuesday — nearly two weeks after certified election results were announced. The Butte County Clerk-Recorder’s office discovered the ballots in a sealed drop box outside Bell Memorial Union, near the neighborhoods where many students live.

“We went to the ballot drop box location to pick up that box and bring it back to the office,” Butte County Elections manager Keaton Denlay said. “At the time, the expectation was that the box would be empty, upon opening the box we discovered that it was not.”

These ballots were not included in the certified results published on Nov. 30. A supplemental canvas for the ballots will begin on Monday at 9 a.m. at the Hall of Records office in Oroville. 

Denlay cited a communication error as the reason the ballots weren’t retrieved on Election Day. 

“The two-person teams were dispatched to the boxes to pick them up,” Denlay said. “Somehow this box got missed and those ballots were not picked up at that time. The ballot drop box was secured and remained sealed the whole time so there were no ballots submitted after the deadline; they just weren’t emptied out of the box until (Tuesday).”  

The only election that might be impacted by the additional votes is the city of Chico’s Measure E Charter Amendment. Even with the additional ballots, all other elections will remain unchanged. 

The deadline for certification of the election was on Dec. 3. To update the count, Denlay’s office petitioned the Butte County Superior Court for an extension to the certification deadline, which passed on Thursday. 

Of the total 529 ballots, 501 signatures have been verified and 28 have been challenged. The 28 challenged voters will be notified and given eight days to cure their vote by mail envelopes. 

“Our focus now at this point is to make sure every ballot vote cast for the Nov. 3 election will be counted,” Denlay said. “We will be conducting a review of our procedures to make sure we can get safeguards in place so something like this doesn’t happen again. It’s never happened before with current policy.” 

All other drop boxes have been checked. The drop box at the BMU and Chico City Hall were the last two to be collected on Tuesday. 

The Orion reached out to House candidate Audrey Denny’s campaign for a statement. 

Photo taken by Jacob Collier

“While pundits and Trump supporters scream about fraud in the media, it is notable that no fraud has been alleged in any of the 56 court cases they have filed and lost this last month,”  campaign manager Brian Solecki said. “Our elections are secure and we should be focusing on important and real issues like the increase in voter suppression tactics across the country, not false allegations of ridiculous conspiracy theories.”

The Orion also reached out to Chico State for comment, but the university declined. The Orion also reached out to the California Secretary of the State but did not receive a response by publication.

Julian Mendoza and Joel Morret can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JulianMTheOrion.