SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – In another sign of unprecedented turnout for the 2020 election, more than half of California’s registered voters had already cast ballots ahead of Election Day, the Secretary of State’s office announced.
As of Monday morning, 11,822,758 voters have cast ballots. The totals include those who returned their vote-by-mail ballots, along with those who voted early in-person. The number represents 53% of the total number of Californians who were registered to vote as of October 19 (22,047,448).
UPDATE: CA voters have cast 11,822,758 ballots! This includes vote-by-mail ballots and in-person ballots cast, and represents more than half of active, registered voters in the state! Find an early voting location near you and #VoteEarly today: https://t.co/RPE2gYmYF8 #VoteSafeCA pic.twitter.com/s7dnEj2BGi
— CA SOS Vote (@CASOSvote) November 2, 2020
“There are more voters registered in California than the number of people in the state of Florida!” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said last week.
“Record registration and a historic election points towards a big voter turnout, which could also mean longer lines and wait times on Election Day,” Padilla went on to say, urging those who could still vote early to do so.
MORE ELECTION 2020 COVERAGE: KPIX Vote Smart
Elections officials across the Bay Area have reported high turnout since early voting began last month. On the first day of early voting in San Francisco, lines were long. Meanwhile, in Santa Clara County, officials saw more than 300 people in the first week, when in the past only a handful would show up in the first few days.
In Sonoma County, voters had not let up despite the ongoing pandemic, along with the threat of wildfires, evacuations and power outages.
Elections officials in several Bay Area counties told KPIX 5 about their turnout numbers on Monday:
• Alameda 60.2%
• Contra Costa 64%
• Napa 55.4%
• San Francisco 59%
• San Mateo 65%
• Santa Clara 56%
• Solano 46.2%
• Sonoma 69.8%
Nearly 600,000 voters in Alameda County have already taken advantage of mail-in and early voting, leaving election officials preparing for a busy but uncertain turnout on Election Day.
“That’s the $64,000 question: Are these returns that we’re seeing an indication that we’re going to have a surge tomorrow? Or are we going to land on the average that we’ve seen in past presidential elections?” asked Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis.
At the Alameda County Court House in Oakland, voters could drive up, drop off and even fill out their ballots in person.
“I felt that it would be more secure at this stage to drop the ballot off directly. I wanted to make sure that my vote was counted. And the Alameda County Courthouse as the seat of the county would probably be one of the more secure locations,” said Kalie Caetano, who dropped off her ballot at lunch Monday.
And she was not alone in wanting to make sure her voice and vote would be counted in this all-important election.
“I’m just so worried about my vote counting. And I just had to make sure. It’s too important for it not to count, even though people say ‘Don’t worry, we live in California.” I say go out and vote,” said Sonja Noble.
By the end of the weekend before Tuesday’s election, roughly 580,000 people had cast their ballots in Alameda County. The county has just under a million registered voters. If history is any indication, roughly 75 to 80 of registered voters in Alameda County vote during a presidential election.
“We can’t have a democracy if we can’t vote and be confident that we are going to have a voice in it. I’m glad to see that we’ve had such a huge turnout,” said Whitney Riegelsberger.
Meanwhile, Santa Clara County is on pace for historic voter turnout this election year, as the number is far exceeding previous races.
As of Monday, 617,000 ballots have been mailed, dropped off or cast in early voting. That number is out of the 1,022,243 registered voters, which is also an all-time high.
“We’ve never had this many ballots returned this early in the election before,” said Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey.
Santa Clara County’s highest voter turnout occurred in 2008, when 86% of voters showed up at the polls. This year, Bushey is estimating 85-90% turnout, crediting advertising, media reports about early voting, voter education and outreach efforts.
“I really am hoping to break that 90 percent,” said Bushey.
Santa Clara County opened up 99 voting centers that featured COVID-19 safety protocols such as plastic barriers, mask requirements and disinfecting of voting stations after each use.
Santa Clara resident Ginger Rogers said she hasn’t missed an election since 1980. She brought her daughter to vote for the first time Monday at the Central Park Library in Santa Clara.
“They made it so easy. Everything is so easy. And if they’re worried about the pandemic and all that, they’ve made it so safe here. Wear your mask, everything is sanitized. They hand you a special pen, they wipe down the counters, the computers, everything. So there’s no reason to be afraid,” said Rogers. “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
Bushey said she prefers that voters who have not mailed their ballots drop them off to expedite the counting process. However, Bushey stressed that mailing ballots is perfectly OK, and that there have not been any problems reporting about mail delivery.
“I think tomorrow is going to be a very smooth election day,” said Bushey.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. Polls in California are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ballots returned at a voting location or a secure drop box must be deposited by 8 p.m. Tuesday, while ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by Tuesday.
Devin Fehley and Kiet Do contributed to this story.