Sonoma County election workers ramp up for Election Day
Ballots sealed in blue envelopes zipped through a sorting machine Monday as employees of the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Office ferried in box after box of the filed ballots, preparing the next votes for tallying.
Sonoma County voters received their ballots four weeks ago and have been able to cast their vote ever since. But Tuesday is Election Day, with dozens of polling places open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those wishing to vote in person, and its approach was heralded Monday by a whir of activity and energy in the back rooms of the registrar’s office.
There, the task was familiar and monotonous but painstaking and deliberate nonetheless: verifying voter signatures on each mail ballot and inspecting the paperwork for any physical defects that could pose problems for the scanner.
In the sorting room, the hum and bustle of machines drowned out any chatter, while next door the four county employees busy inspecting ballots sat at a large table and worked amid studious quiet.
“People want answers so we want to do our jobs accurately, as well as quickly. We won’t sacrifice accuracy for speed,” said Deva Proto, the county’s registrar of voters.
Outside her Santa Rosa office on Fiscal Drive, traffic was bustling as voters took advantage of the office’s drive-up ballot drop box.
Proto looked on with approval at the a queue— a sign of the county’s typically high voter engagement.
On Tuesday, voters will decide the outcomes of two recall efforts: the statewide question of whether to keep or oust Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a local race to determine if Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch holds onto her elected seat as the county’s top prosecutor.
By 5 p.m. Monday, 52% of the county’s 304,863 registered voters had turned in their ballots. Though it has begun processing ballots, the registrar’s office will not tabulate preliminary results until the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Proto said.
The office expects to post initial results soon after. Those will include ballots received by the office through mail or drop-off by Monday.
Staff were set to work past normal closing time at 5 p.m. Monday in an effort to process as many of the ballots delivered over the weekend as possible. On Tuesday, some will be back to work as early as 6 a.m.
“It’ll just keep going all day,” said Proto.
In the scanning room, where access is restricted, a 12-foot-tall bookshelf was steadily filling up with the white, unmarked boxes used to hold stacks of returned ballots. By the end of Tuesday, it will be full, Proto said gesturing to the bookshelf through the room’s glass doors.
Tuesday’s election, like the Nov. 2020 general election, is all mail-ballot affair, but because polling places double as drop-off locations and voting site for those choosing to cast their ballots in person, Proto always staffs polling locations to meet high voter traffic.
This year, a number of last-minute cancellations from volunteers added to that challenge, so the office has been moving people around to ensure all polling places are fully staffed, Proto said.
To bolster the regular workforce and corp of election volunteers, the county brings in temporary employees for the duration of the election, Proto said.
The helps ensure the phones get answered and voters needing help at the registar’s office get it, she said.
“Some years it’s all hands on deck,” Proto said.
She was optimistic Monday that her team was ready to go.
You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MurphReports.