SOLANO COUNTY (KPIX 5) – Soon, counties throughout California will begin mailing out ballots to primary voters. But Solano County has already been voting for over a week now.
A new state law said counties don’t have to wait for February 3rd if they’re ready ahead of time. Solano County was and gave their voters a 10-day head start on the rest of the Bay Area and most of the country.
Officials said 180,000 mail-in ballots were sent out on January 22nd. As of Thursday, they’ve already received about 5,000 ballots back.
Assistant Registrar of Elections John Gardner said the intention was to give voters extra time in case any problems popped up, not to give them a jump on everyone else, including voters in the Iowa Caucuses.
“We really didn’t understand or think about the impact this had on a national level,” Gardner told KPIX 5. “So, it’s interesting but that wasn’t our thought process at all.”
Seventy percent of Solano’s ballots are now mail-in. It is a trend throughout America as voters aren’t waiting to go to the polls on Election Day.
At Solano Community College, political science professor Thomas Bundenthal said smart candidates already realize that they are actually speaking to early voters located all across the country.
“It isn’t just those people they meet in the diner in Iowa that they’re influencing,” Bundenthal said. “Everybody in the United States is going to see the Facebook posts and the clips of that. So they’re kind of campaigning everywhere, all the time, anyway.”
But Bundenthal says it can also have a downside for candidates, as well. If they do well in early primaries, they won’t get any momentum from those in other states who voted early. And though his students may not support President Donald Trump, they acknowledge that he is generating a lot of interest in this election.
Referring to the desire to vote early, student Meredith Kemp said, “I think it’s a symbol of how eager people are to have their voice heard.”
Fellow student James Cultra agreed, “I felt like the last election may not have been taken as seriously, whereas this time around people are determined to get out there and vote.”
But one warning to early primary voters: A lot can happen between now and Election Night.
When it comes to voting there are no do-overs. Gardner says they do get calls from people wanting to change their votes.
“We have had cases like that,” he said. “People vote really early in the process, something may change later on with that candidate or that contest and they want to change their vote. Once their ballot is cast…that’s it.”
The only voters who got ballots earlier than Solano County were in Minnesota, Vermont and California’s military members and voters overseas.
But, while the times may be changing, on Election Day Solano will still operate more than 100 polling sites across the county with about 1,500 people helping out.