Sonoma County expects roughly half of votes to have been counted on Election Day
Sonoma County voters had cast 72,093 mail-in ballots by Saturday in the run-up to Tuesday’s presidential primary election, about 32% of the county’s 224,000 mail-in voters.
The vast majority of mail-in ballots were either mailed in late or dropped off at polling places. Such ballots are not counted until after election night.
Some Democrats still hadn’t made up their minds about who should take on President Trump. This year, the state’s primary election is taking place months earlier than usual, leaving many Democratic candidates still on the ballot.
“Looks about right based on what we saw coming in with early voting,” said Deva Proto, the county’s registrar of voters.
Proto said about 80% of the county’s 280,000 registered voters vote by mail. With most of them voting late, that leaves a lot of votes uncounted on election night. The county’s first results Tuesday do not include ballots that had to be manually reviewed because they had write-ins or some other issue that needed to be checked.
“From what we understand, people are waiting because of some contentious local races and there are a lot of candidates on the Democratic ballot,” Proto said.
Kari Holmes of Santa Rosa dropped off her mail-in ballot at the country elections office Tuesday afternoon, knowing her vote would not be part of election night results. She said she was having a hard time deciding which Democratic presidential candidate to support.
“I went for Biden the very last minute,” she said. Even though I’m a social democrat at heart - I’m Scandinavian - I don’t feel like this country is ready for that. ... I think we need a unifier.”
The election comes a day after ?Sonoma County health officials declared an emergency over the spread of the new coronavirus. On Monday, local health officials confirmed that the county’s first resident had contracted the new virus.
There was concern among county officials that the growing emergency would keep people from the polls.
But it didn’t stop Errol Samuels, 76, who cast his ballot the old fashioned way, by going to his neighborhood polling place at the Santa Rosa Christian Church on Pacific Avenue.
Samuels, who is retired, said he’s usually a “homebody” and has been laying low because of the coronavirus scare, avoiding large crowds and gatherings.
“I do have concern about it and have to watch where I go,” said Samuels, adding that he voted for Bernie Sanders, because, “He looked like he could take on Trump.”
Proto said she expected to only post about 50% of the total voting results on election night. That’s because so many of mail-in ballots are either dropped off at polling places on election day or postmarked too close to election day.
In both cases, Proto said they won’t be counted until after Tuesday.
In the 2016 Democratic primary, late voters were enough to swing Sonoma County in favor of Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton had led in ballots counted on election day.
Proto said Tuesday’s results may not definitively decide close races.
Tuesday marked the first countywide election where the county’s new election system is being used. Proto said the new system will allow periodic updates to election results, the first of which could come later this week.
“We’ll be adding to the results as we process them,” she said, adding that with the old system, late votes could not simply be added to election night results.
Proto predicted voter turnout would be somewhere between 65% and 75%. In the 2016 primary election, 64.9% of the county’s 254,104 registered voters participated.