Election Day is less than a week away, and during a presidential year amid a global pandemic, there’s a lot to know heading into Tuesday.
Coastsiders will face many important choices on this year’s ballot, from a hotly contested Half Moon Bay City Council seat to competitive school board and local district elections to dozens of statewide propositions that could have a real effect on local economies and infrastructure. People are already turning out in big numbers.
By the end of the day on Friday, the county reported more than 180,000 votes already submitted, which accounts for more than half of all ballots cast in the county in 2016. But there is still lots of voting to come. Assistant Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder and Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry said earlier this fall that the county was expecting a large turnout and, because of mandated social distancing at polling locations, long lines on Election Day.
That’s why, for those who have not submitted their ballots yet, Irizarry says making a plan to vote is essential. Early voting has been ongoing since ballots were sent out and early voting centers opened the first week of October. New options are available to in-person voters starting this week: A Mobile Voting Center is now stationed at Pescadero High School and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
On the Coastside, the most convenient in-person voting locations are at Half Moon Bay’s Emergency Operations Center at 537 Kelly Ave. and Moss Beach’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 475 California Ave. Each of the voting centers will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, with extended hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
On Election Day only, vote centers will also be open at La Honda Fire Brigade and La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District. In addition, San Mateo County voters can cast their ballot and even register to vote at any of the 45 locations countywide.
Each of the county’s voting centers will have safety protocols in place, including requiring face masks and social distancing both inside and outside in line, as well as regular cleaning. Poll workers will be behind plexiglass and wearing personal protective equipment.
Voters can also drop off their completed ballots at various drop boxes across the Coastside, including inside New Leaf and outside City Hall in Half Moon Bay, at the La Honda Fire Brigade and outside Pescadero’s Fire Station 59.
With the election just days away, people wary of delays with the U.S. Postal Service can drop off their mail-in ballots instead. Those choosing this option should do so by Election Day and sign their envelope using the signature on their voter registration file, which is often what is on one’s DMV record. This will help voters avoid being among the thousands whose ballots are challenged every election. In the March 2020 primary, 2,098 ballots arrived late, 818 were submitted without a signature and 1,150 had a mismatched signature. Irizarry suggested those uncertain about what signature is on file can still cast a paper ballot at any of the in-person vote centers.
When voting is complete, the waiting begins. On election night, the first round of results is set to be published at 8:10 p.m. on Tuesday. It will include only vote-by-mail ballots received before Nov. 1. Starting at 9 p.m., new results will be released every half-hour until all ballots have been recorded. Because such a heavy portion of mailed votes are expected, election night results might not reflect final results, and the overall count will likely be delayed, Irizarry said.
By entering their name, date of birth and ZIP code at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov, residents can check the status of their ballot and whether it has been received, accepted and counted. Election results will begin to go live at www.smcacre.org Tuesday night.
Irizarry expects around 60 percent of votes to be cast before Election Day and for early winners to be called within a day or two. But for the rest of the results, final counts might not be complete for another 30 days. That’s because ballots that are postmarked on Nov. 3 will be accepted up to 17 days later, meaning results will continue to roll in through the county’s certification period all month long.