It was mid-morning on Election Day when Julie Mendel, a poll worker at a voting location at Mills College in Oakland, realized that something had gone horribly wrong.
A voter had approached her with a printout from a ballot-marking device, a machine that spits out a voter's choices onto a piece of paper (the voter's ballot) after they have made their selections on a touchscreen. The voter then submits the ballot into a collection bag.
For more than three days of voting, Mendel and her fellow poll workers had told voters that the piece of paper was a receipt, with the actual votes submitted electronically though the machine. She had heard the guidance from a higher-ranking poll worker at the location, and never questioned it until she looked closely at the piece of paper the man was showing her. It read 'Official Ballot.'