MARTINEZ (KPIX 5) — A record number of Bay Area voters are turning in their ballots weeks ahead of election day, a practice that is making the jobs of local county registrars much easier.

Voter turnout appears to be picking up speed in the Bay Area. The wave of early ballots may even be enough to produce sizable returns the moment polls close on Election Day.

“So all of these are going through, pictures are being taken of the signatures,” explained Scott Konopasek, Contra Costa County Assistant. Registrar of Voters. “Those signature images are sent to our signature verification team which is across the street.”

A voter’s signature isn’t just important; it’s the first thing the machine looks for on the first pass.

“Once they get verified, they’ll come through again,” Konopasek said. “Exceptions will be sorted out into these other categories.”

They’re already doing a lot of sorting here in Contra Costa County. About 5,000 ballots a day came in last week. Another 20,000 came in just Tuesday morning.

“These are the ballots that were picked up from the drop bop boxes yesterday afternoon,”  Konopasek says, pointing to several full shelves of ballots. “Typically, at this point in the process, that cart represents everything we would have received since Monday.”

Voters continue to show up early, with turnout in the county already nearing 15 percent.

“Oh, I drove all the way over here from Concord just to mail my ballot, and make sure it got in an official box,”  Jackie Gordon said, dropping her ballot in the elections office box.

“I wanted to make sure it got here,” said voter Linda Taylor-Hunt. “And the only way to do it is to do it yourself.”

The wave of early votes is giving the county a chance to work ahead. The ballots that check out are already moving along, getting staged for the scanning process.

The hope is that every ballot in before November 3rd will be in that first batch of numbers we see when polls close on election night.

“It’s a courageous goal, to be honest,” said Konopasek. “It’s optimistic. Our goal is for our 8 o’clock report on election night to have all the vote-by-mail ballots we have received through Monday. But, if you really want to make sure your vote is among these first numbers, make sure we get it by Saturday on Halloween. I can guarantee you if you get it by Halloween, it will be in those numbers.”

Officials said about one percent of ballots are actually turned in without a signature. The early voting will allow the staff at the Registrar of Voters to address any issues and contact voters about them so they can be corrected in plenty of time for the votes to still count.

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