SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The work to count every ballot in Santa Clara County continues nearly a week after Election Day.
The county’s Registrar of Voters (ROV) staff and volunteers are still working to process hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots.
“It’s been really busy, we have over 852,000 ballots that we’re already working with, trying to make sure we open them and flatten, scan them, do all the necessary procedures in order to get the ballot counted,” said Evelyn Mendez, Public and Legislative Affairs Manager for the ROV office.
“We have about 60,000 that voted in person, so the rest of that over 700,000 were the vote by mail ballots that came in, the majority of our voters county know to vote by mail, this is something they did in March,” Mendez added.
Leading up to Election Day — there were a record 1,025,357 registered voters in Santa Clara County — according to the ROV this year they received 692,00 returned ballots compared to 349,042 at the start of the 2016 Presidential Election.
As of Monday, 87% of the total ballots have been counted — a lengthy process for the ROV, which says totals from Election Day will change until they certify results by Dec. 3.
“There a lot of pieces to this, a lot of steps, our team is busy adjudicating which means if anyone over voted, any of the ballots that have write-ins they have to go through each one to see if it is a certified write-in candidate that they actually wrote in on their ballot,” said Mendez.
“The duplication process is mostly ballots that used the wrong ink or they accidentally put identifiable information … they have to duplicate that ballot exactly how the voter had it without their name on it,” Mendez added.
“If there were any spills or anything on the ballot, they have to duplicate it, that’s an entire process and they have about 25,000 of those that they’re duplicating right now before it can go to our ballot counting room.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ROV also had to fight an additional task of making sure record-setting in-person voters and staff were as safe as possible.
They offered in-person voters personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and the proper 6-feet of distance to safely cast votes.
“I feel like our team was very prepared for it, you walked into one building and everybody asked you if you needed a mask, everybody asked you if you needed gloves, hand sanitizer,” said Mendez.
“Everyone was trained on how to prepare for what was happening and we also anticipated we were going to get over a million voters, so we anticipated having enough staff to even process the ballots.”
Around the nation, hostile voting observers have emerged to intimate voters as President Donald Trump continues to allege voting fraud in key states.
In line with growing tensions leading up to Election Day nationwide — the ROV says they did see record-setting voting observers this year.
“We’re always open to observers coming and reviewing the process or to see how we do things, we had a record number of observers this time,” said Mendez.
“They’re documenting what they’re here to observe and what they want to see but this is the most that we’ve had for any election.”
In places like east San Jose where a majority Mexican population resides — efforts to encourage voters to come out to the polls grew leading up to Election Day.
Leading the efforts is the Si Se Puede Collective made up of five community-based organizations serving Mayfair/ east San Jose including the School of Arts & Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza (MHP), SOMOS Mayfair, Grail Family Services, Amigos De Guadalupe, Veggielution.
The MHP served as one of the many voting centers throughout the county, offering residents a chance to cast their vote in-person on Election Day.
“When I think about our working class community, many voters have the luxury of voting early, so the actual Election Day we had people turn out,” said Jessica Paz-Cedillos, Executive Director for the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.
“Through voting we saw a huge turnout, we closed the polls here at 8 p.m. and by 8:40 p.m. we still had 20 people in line, we didn’t officially close the plaza until 11 p.m. when the votes had been collected,” Paz-Cedillos added.
“The Si Se Puede Collective was here on Election Day … we were providing water for voters, we were also providing food for voters, we knew there was going to be long lines.”
Each day at 5 p.m. the ROV will update voting totals as they continue to work to count all the ballots in Santa Clara County.
Mendez tells KRON4 News she credits the high voter turnout to the initiative residents took to cast their ballot early.
“It says a lot about our county, they’re prepared, they voted early which was great because when we reported the results at eight o’clock our voters were included in that because they voted early and we were able to process and go through all these counts and every step of the ballot processing to make sure their vote was counted on election night,” said Mendez.
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