As I write these words (and perhaps even as you are reading them) there is much that remains to be determined in the general election that concluded voting on Tuesday. There is a monumentally important presidential election that brought a historic turnout across the 50 states. The future of Congress hangs in the balance. And at the state level, voters are deciding the fate of gig workers, important tax questions and more.
Closer to home, we heard from a lot of Coastside voters, and most (OK, all of them) had their complaints about some aspect of how the election was conducted.
More often than not, these voters were confused by the new districts that had been carved from formerly at-large municipal boundaries and special districts. This was perhaps inevitable and will probably become ever more clear to local voters as they gain experience with it.
Many wanted to know why the one contested Half Moon Bay City Council race wasn’t on their ballot. One voter came into the office the day before the election wondering when her “city ballot” would arrive since hers didn’t have the City Council race on it. That’s because she simply did not live in District 3, the largely south-of-downtown district that featured a race between incumbent Adam Eisen and challenger Joaquin Jimenez. She says the good folks at City Hall didn’t explain it to her in a way that made sense. We’ve certainly tried in news stories in the last several months. But it’s clear the city and the city’s news sources could have — should have — spent more time explaining this to voters.
Voters were also confused about polling places. In the days leading up to Election Day, many walked into our office wondering where to vote in person or where they could drop off their ballots. All of that information was available on the county elections page and we’ve printed it more than once in our pages. Information like that was the focus of our Weekday e-newsletter on Monday. But it was confusing. “Pop-up” polling places popped up and then vanished seemingly at random. Sometimes drop boxes were inside — as at New Leaf Community Market — and other times they were somewhere outside. (The one at Half Moon Bay City Hall was located in the parking lot. And the sandwich board attempting to show the way pointed south on Main Street.)
Voting is hard enough. It can take hours to sufficiently research state propositions as well as local candidates and ballot measures. The psychic toll of this year’s general election is unlike any we’ve ever encountered. Perhaps one takeaway from this strange election season is that those of us charged with informing the public can do better on some fundamentals, like explaining the districts and voting locations.
We’ll do our best going forward. It would be nice to hear elections officials and government agencies acknowledge that they, too, could better inform their constituents.
— Clay Lambert