San Benito County is headed toward a turnout of about 43 percent for the June 5 primary and a staggering number of mail votes, topping expectations of local elections officials.
With 600 ballots left to count, and 41.26 percent without those ballots, an elections official estimated Friday the county will get to 43 percent or so, but perhaps not up to 44 percent.
A precise number is unclear because some of the 600 ballots left are bound to end up disqualified, said Assistant Clerk Angela Curro.
The elections office expects to count around 300 more of the last batch Friday and then more next Tuesday and/or Wednesday, Curro said. Those final 600 ballots require the most rigorous checks among all the ballots, and Curro hopes the disqualified bunch will be under 100. They include provisional ballots that voters may not have signed or other factors.
Either way, the final turnout number will only go up from here, and it’s already higher than the 38 percent Curro predicted or the 32-33 percent Clerk Joe Paul Gonzalez envisioned.
Part of the reason is likely the elections office’s move to allowing convertible mail-in ballots for regular poll voters, she said. The office has counted 1,536 early votes when it’s normally 250-300.
But Curro believes the local political climate played a role in the higher turnout, too. Statewide, the current turnout number on the secretary of state’s website is 32.3 percent.
“It’s the political climate that we’re in,” she said. “A lot of people were more engaged this year than four years ago.”
Locally, there were three measures on the ballot: Regarding a cannabis tax, a hotel tax and an abandoned vehicle fee. There were several intriguing races such as two county supervisor races with a combined nine candidates, an open judge seat, the sheriff’s race and the county treasurer’s race. Also, Hollister Democrat Robert Rivas was the front-runner for the District 30 State Assembly seat.
Curro said more than 10,000 people voted by mail as a whole, which amounts to somewhere in the 80 percent range.
The elections office, meanwhile, is starting the required 1 percent manual recount and expects to finish the process in a week.
Relatively speaking, the process is going smoother this time around with the help of new voting and counting machines.
“All those ballot cards get ran through these scanners,” Curro said. “So it tallies all the votes and it images all the cards.”
She said the new equipment makes the process more transparent.