Local Election

Some Tulare County polling places run short of paper ballots

Voting continued in Tulare County polling places, including the clerk’s office downtown, past the 8 p.m. scheduled closure time.
Voting continued in Tulare County polling places, including the clerk’s office downtown, past the 8 p.m. scheduled closure time. lgriswold@fresnobee.com

Some Tulare County polling places ran short of paper ballots Tuesday night and late voters were being asked to use electronic voting machines.

Polls remained open in Tulare County after 8 p.m. when polls were scheduled to close because voters in many polling places were still casting ballots, Tulare County elections chief Rita Woodard said.

As of 9:40 p.m., voters were still casting ballots in Lindsay, Tulare and Visalia, elections officials said.

As a result, the county delayed releasing results online, she said.

Woodard said it was unclear when voting would conclude.

About half of 55 sites having the machines were short of ballots, Woodard said. They were saving paper ballots for people who had to file provisional ballots, she said.

There were so many people voting that after the doors were closed at 8 p.m., those still inside were allowed to vote, she said.

Woodard said the long ballot meant voters were spending more time in the voting booth, and many may have waited until close to 8 p.m. to go to the polls.

Woodard said the turnout for the 2016 presidential election was tremendous from an electorate of about 154,000.

“We are having a record turnout,” Woodard, the registrar of voters, 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.”

Kings County voters were likewise showing up at the polls in droves.

“We’ve been bombarded all day long,” said Registrar of Voters Kristine Lee. “We’ve had a very good turnout this time. We’ve had lines all day long.”

The office veterans have told Lee, who was elected two years ago, “it’s a bigger turnout than the 2008 election,” she said.

There are 52,137 registered voters in Kings County, of which 40,425 vote by mail. As of Monday, 17,064 ballots had been received.

In Madera County, 38.8 percent of voters used absentee ballots.

“Turnout seems to be strong” and a steady flow of voters appeared at polling places, Justin White, chief assistant county clerk-recorder, said Tuesday shortly before polls closed.

Staff writer Marc Benjamin contributed to the story. Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold