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Warning of Ballot Snafu to Be Posted at Polling Places : Election: Sign will explain that numbering of punch holes for Propositions 187 and 188 is potentially confusing. Some activists say the remedy is insufficient.


Moving to forestall possible voter confusion surrounding two of the most controversial statewide ballot measures, the county registrar of voters said Tuesday that notices will be posted at polling places to help clarify the numbering on the ballots.

Tuesday's decision was a concession to supporters and opponents of the measures as well as several civic groups that had demanded that county officials take some action to make the ballot less confusing for voters.

State election officials had also voiced concern about the ballot, suggesting the county caution voters.

The notices will be placed in all voting booths at each of the county's 6,104 polling places on Nov. 8. The notice will also be included with absentee voter mailings.

"This is in response to the level of concern we are seeing from the Board (of Supervisors) and the large numbers of calls coming in," said Assistant Registrar-Recorder Michael Petrucello. "It is important to be responsive and responsible."

Local election officials had initially declined to take any action, contending that the ballot posed no serious problem. But state election officials dispatched a letter to the registrar Friday asking that the notices be posted.

"It is not the perfect solution," Acting Secretary of State Tony Miller said. "But we're too late in the process to do anything else. It's the best remedy under the circumstances."

Miller also said the Los Angeles County numbering fluke may prompt revisions in the way ballots are made up. "This will be a wake-up call," he said.

The confusion stems from a computer-generated numbering system used by the county that assigns each "yes" and "no" hole a number.

Controversy had erupted over the ballot placement of Prop. 188, a smoking-related measure funded in large part by tobacco giant Phillip Morris, and Prop. 187, which seeks to deny illegal immigrants public schooling, social services and non-emergency health care. In a fluke, the "yes" punch hole for Prop. 188 is numbered 187.

Opponents of the smoking initiative had worried that supporters of Prop. 187 might inadvertently vote for Prop. 188. Supporters of Proposition 187 had also expressed concern about losing votes.

The registrar's decision was a small victory for activists and civic groups who had warned that a failure to clarify the numbers might prompt a contested election. They initially demanded that the ballots be reprinted, a plan the registrar has rejected as being too time-consuming and costly.

"This is a very positive move that will help clarify the issue for voters in what has been a confusing matter," said Alan Zovar, a spokesman for the Coalition for a Healthy California, which opposes Proposition 188.

"We are pleased they have paid attention and realized this is an issue," said Marilee K. Scaff, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles County. "The public has to be a good watchdog on these policies and we've done our job."

However, the proposed remedy did not satisfy Proposition 187 co-author Harold Ezell, who accused county officials of engaging in a conspiracy.

"For the city and county to put this out to millions of voters, to me it looks like a conspiracy," Ezell said at a news conference Tuesday. "How they can say they are going to put a little notice up there like a 'No Smoking' sign is outrageous, and I think somebody needs to be brought to task on this."

Times staff writer Gebe Martinez contributed to this story.

Ballot Fluke Controversy has erupted over the ballot placement of Proposition 188, a smoking-related measure funded in large part by tobacco giant Phillip Morris, and Proposition 187, which seeks to deny services to illegal immigrants. In a fluke, the "yes" punch hole for Proposition 188 is numbered 187 on the L.A. County ballot. The registrar of voters office said Tuesday it will post notices at polling places to help clarify the numbering.

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