Central San Joaquin Valley voters went to the polls – and, increasingly, many to their mailboxes – to cast long ballots.
And in Tulare County, they even went into overtime after some precincts ran out of ballots.
Nearly 200 races were contested in the six-county region. Valley voters selected council members in 19 cities, plus weighed in on 34 school boards.
There were also 17 local school bond measures – most of which were receiving heavy support in early returns Tuesday night, including the high-profile Fresno Unified Measure X.
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Tulare County elections chief Rita Woodard said some polling places ran short of paper ballots and voters were being asked to use electronic voting machines. About half of 55 sites that have the machines were short of ballots, she said. They were saving paper ballots for people who had to file provisional ballots, she said.
In Fresno County, elections chief Brandi Orth described turnout as “robust.”
“We are always happy to see that voters are letting their voices be heard and exercising their right to vote,” Orth said.
Incumbents enjoyed relatively large leads in most Valley congressional and Assembly races. And California Attorney General Kamala Harris appeared headed to a big victory over Loretta Sanchez in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Vote-by-mail mixups in Fresno County
Two people in the Fresno area reported problems associated with a switch to vote-by-mail voting.
Lauren Stephens, who lives in an unincorporated area of Fresno County south of Clovis, said she learned Monday night that her precinct had been switched to vote by mail and said she had never received a vote-by-mail ballot. The complication appears to stem from an incorrect address, with Stephens saying she learned she’d been dropped from the voter rolls because of returned mail.
Orth explained that some precincts are switched to vote by mail when there are not many people in them.
“When a geographic area has less than 250 voters, the law provides that they are to vote by mail,” Orth said. Voters are notified of such changes when the ballot is mailed to them and on their sample ballot.
Stephens ended up voting provisionally at her former polling place. The precinct didn’t have the appropriate ballot, leaving her puzzled over Clovis Unified School District races when she lives in the Sanger school district. Stephens’ vote will count in the elections she is eligible to vote in, Orth said.
Another voter who hit a speed bump when trying to vote was Jeffrey Pietz of north Fresno. When he went to his regular polling place at the Fairwinds assisted living center, he was surprised to learn he was registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter. The same thing happened during the primary.
Pietz voted provisionally. Keeping the pink postcard that comes with the provisional ballot allows the elections office to check 40 days after the election to see if your vote counted.
‘Record’ turnout in Tulare County
Woodard, the Tulare County registrar of voters, said the turnout was tremendous from an electorate of about 154,000.
“We are having a record turnout,” Woodard said Tuesday evening. “We’ve never seen it like this.”
Countywide, about 76 percent of all registered voters get vote by mail ballots. A total of 116,461 ballots were mailed in mid-October. As of Monday, 37,593 had been received at the elections division.
Woodard said she went to check on a polling place at 6:30 a.m. at Sierra Baptist Church on East Walnut Avenue near South Ben Maddox Way in Visalia and found a line “going around the building. There were maybe 30 or 40 people instead of one or two.”
At another morning check-in, this time at the Sons of Italy Lodge polling place in Visalia, the wait was up to 45 minutes because of the long line. Voters have had to wait at other polling places, too, she said.
“People have been so patient,” Woodard said. “They are wonderful. They just want to vote.”