Contra Costa County polling places encountered no shortages, but officials were prepared to use vote-by-mail ballots, said county Registrar of Voters Steve Weir. Even sample ballots, if pressed into service, are legal, he said.
But Contra Costa did experience another glitch, when poll workers mistakenly told at least two decline-to-state voters they could not vote in the Democratic primary -- the most common complaint to a state hotline, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
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"We immediately called the inspectors and later sent out rovers to re-inspect the precincts and make sure that we were providing the correct information," Weir said. "We haven't received any more calls, so we think we have the problem solved."
In California, the Democratic Party allows decline-to-state voters to vote in its primary. The Republican, Green, Libertarian, American Independent and the Peace and Freedom parties do not. About 20 percent of the state's voters are not affiliated with any political party.
Alameda County ran out of Democratic ballots in Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Fremont, said elections spokesman Guy Ashley. Although polls closed at 8 p.m., under state law anyone waiting in line to vote could do so, said Kate Folmar, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office..
Voters at affected precincts were asked to mark their choices on photocopies of ballots.
"We're seeing the problem countywide but especially in Berkeley," Ashley said. "We printed enough ballots for every registered Democrat and more, but it wasn't enough."
Contra Costa's situation was not as dire.
An apparently high number of decline-to-state voters electing to vote in the Democratic primary did tap into the supply, Weir said.
"In order for this to happen, it takes an extraordinary voter turnout," he said.
Joey Dell'Anno, 18, cast his first ballot Tuesday. The Northgate High School senior voted for Mitt Romney.
He went in straight from baseball practice, dust still on his T-shirt and striped baseball pants.
"I wanted to help decide," he said.
Dave George, precinct inspector at the polling place at Acalanes High School, said about 100 people had cast votes. "What we noticed is that a lot of people registered as nonpartisan," he said. "A great majority have crossed over and voted on the Democratic ballot."
Contra Costa County supplies each of its 800-plus precincts with more than enough ballots to accommodate every registered member of each of the political parties plus the nonpartisan or decline-to-state voters.
"I don't quite understand it yet," Weir said. "I'm still trying to figure it out. There may be a targeted get-out-the-vote effort in this area or just high turnout."
Weir said that while polls were busy, it was difficult to gauge whether turnout was living up to expectations for the state's earliest-ever primary election. Part of that is because his office increased the number of voting locations by one third, from 460 to 615.
So what may have appeared to be a large number of voters in a previous election was diffused among the county's increased poll offerings, Weir said.
Staff writers Josh Richman and Robert Salonga and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog at http://www.cctextra.com/blogs/politicsblog/.