SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — The COVID-19 pandemic has already created challenges for voters and elections officials. But in Sonoma County, voting comes with the extra challenges of wildfires, evacuations, and the possibility of being forced to evacuate again.
“We are in a PSPS warning status I believe,” Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Deva Marie Proto told KPIX 5 on Wednesday. “Our county complex is not affected usually, but you know, 2020, I wouldn’t put it past it.”
A power outage warning, on the heels of the Glass Fire, amid the pandemic, and work goes on at the Sonoma County elections office.
“We also are working short staffed, because we have people who are out because of the pandemic,” Proto said of the county’s election operation. “We have people that were evacuated or in different areas of the county.”
Otherwise, Sonoma looks a lot like the Bay Area’s other counties with, for one, a big early turnout.
“I had to get down here to vote,” said Stephen Nordquist, who rolled up to the elections office in his classic car. “My wife made sure I brought it down to the depository here.”
Voters here are also focused on details:
“Because I want my vote to count,” a woman said after dropping off her ballot. “And I’m very proud to vote.”
There were also a lot of pictures.
“I had to take a picture of myself with my ‘I voted’ sticker,” said Carol Mills, laughing.
Back inside, the county is still preparing for the possibility of more challenges.
“One of our fears is that we will lose a polling place to a fire or an evaluation area,” Proto said.
She even thinks that kind of worry might be driving some of the early votes.
“I’ve been half joking but they need to do it early in case there’s any more evacuations,” Proto said. “That’s one less thing they have to grab on the way out.”
As of Wednesday night, Public Safety Power Shutoffs began in parts of Sonoma County due to the risk of wildfires. The shutoffs, which will impact tens of thousands of PG&E customers across 24 counties, are expected to last through at least Friday.