OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Elections officials described a peaceful and efficient day at the polls Tuesday, as Election Day 2020 has progressed smoothly in the Bay Area’s nine counties.
Turnout for in-person election day voting was down compared to past years, thanks to the massive push for early and mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The night before Election Day, more than 2.7 million Bay Area voters had already cast ballots.
Statewide, more than 11.2 million of California’s more than 21 million registered voters already voted. Nationwide, the number was approaching 100 million by Monday evening – almost 70% of the 136.5 million people who voted in 2016.
“We are smooth sailing at this point,” said John Gardener, Solano County’s assistant registrar of voters. The county reported receiving 119,986 ballots by the end of the day Oct. 30.
“Turnout at polls is fairly steady and no report of lines yet,” he added.
Tim Dupuis, Alameda County’s registrar, echoed those sentiments.
“Things are going well,” Dupuis said. “A little more in-person voting than we saw over the weekend. It still looks like the majority of the votes are being dropped off as vote by mail.”
“No reports of lines (and a) steady stream of voters,” said Scott Konopasek, the assistant registrar of voters in Contra Costa County, who added about 22,500 people have voted on Election Day.
“We would have expected 100,000 by now in the past,” he said. “Things always pick up the last three hours of the day.”
Konopasek’s county received more than 420,000 early ballots, as of Monday.
But away from the polling places, Election Day was being greeted with anxiety, concern and passion. Like many voters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Morgan Richardson is simply unsure of what will unfold as the contentious 2020 Presidential Campaign finally reached election day on Tuesday.
Polls opened across the region at 7 a.m. in an election where more than half of all Bay Area residents had already cast their ballots through the mail or in early in-person voting.
According to local officials on election eve Monday — Alameda County had already seen 60.2% of its registered voters cast their ballots; Contra Costa 64%; Marin 74%; Napa 63.6%; San Francisco 59%; San Mateo 65%; Santa Clara 56%; Solano 51.6% and Sonoma 69.7%.
A major force behind the early voting has been the COVID-19 outbreak and fears over the virus’ spread. Local polling places were taking plenty of precautions including socially distanced voting booths and wiping down voting machines with disinfectants.
Meanwhile, the showdown between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden was in the forefront of voters minds.
“I know the polls are all saying it could go one way but that happened four years ago so I’m prepared for anything, you know,” she told KPIX 5. “It’s gonna take days if not weeks to count all the votes. So we just got to wait and be patient and try not to listen to anything anyone has to say on Twitter about who won.”
Susan Kraus, who was visiting San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf on Monday from her Placerville home, was also anxious about what would unfold over the next day or two.
“The thing that I don’t want to see is that (President Donald) Trump said that if he doesn’t win he’s not going to give it away very nicely,” she said.
The San Francisco Bay Area has long been viewed as a bastion for liberalism, but during this election season conservative voters backing Trump have been very visible in their support. On election eve, a group of Trump supporters were perched on a Highway 24 overpass in Lafayette, waving banners and posters to the commuters on the crowded freeway below.
Danville has also been a bastion of conservative support this election season.
“I’m not intimidated anymore,” said David Gaskell, a Republican who lives in Danville. “I feel very strongly about my beliefs. I’ve got patriots out here, um, I feel really comfortable expressing my opinions.”
Esther Wiens feels likewise.
“When they give me the finger, I just give ’em a kiss and say, we love you anyway!,” she told KPIX 5. “They don’t understand that because they expect us to be mean back.”
Just in case emotions were to spill over into unrest, violence and vandalism, local police departments have beefed up their street patrols and businesses from San Francisco to Walnut Creek have boarded up windows.
At Mscape, a Walnut Creek furniture store that recently opened its doors, employee Eve Jazmin said Monday that they will be boarding up all of their glass windows just in case.
“We were informed by our landlord that we were gonna have some activities after the election or during the election night,” Jazmin said.
Oakland and San Francisco police departments say they knew of no specific threats, but were being cautious.
“The Oakland Police Department continues to participate in a citywide, interdepartmental planning effort in anticipation of the upcoming 2020 election,” the department said in Monday. “The (department) has increased staffing to address any safety concerns and facilitate a safe place and space for peaceful demonstrations or gatherings.”
The situation may be further inflamed by Trump’s threat to challenge the election results and the peaceful transfer of power.
“I think those are real concerns,” said KPIX 5 political analyst Paul Henderson. “Leaders fighting election results is more reflective of a dictatorship that we see in other countries. And we’ve seen the reversal of those shifts in power translate into military authority and civil unrest. That could happen here as well.”
“It’s not what we want but cities are preparing to make sure that their citizens are as safe as possible,” Henderson added.
Meanwhile, across the Bay Area and the state several ballot measures will be closely watched and tightly contested. The voting age in local elections could be lowered to 16 years old in both Oakland and San Francisco if ballot measures calling for the change were to pass.
Cash-strapped school districts across the region, further strained by COVID-19 restrictions, also were asking voters to increase their local funding.
On the state-wide level, one of the more emotional measures on the ballot is Proposition 16, which would end the state’s ban on affirmative action programs for government hiring and contracting and admissions to public colleges and universities.
The survey of likely voters released Oct. 26 showed 49% opposed and 38% in favor, with greater support in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles but trailing everywhere else. A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California indicated similar trends.
“Its prospects are not great,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of a poll conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “My only explanation is that it’s fallen between the cracks.”
State voters will also determine the employment future for Uber, Lyft and other app-based delivery drivers in the most expensive ballot measure in state history.
Tuesday’s election could override lawmakers and the courts and determine whether the titans of the so-called gig economy will be able to keep drivers classified as independent contractors or have to treat them as employees eligible for benefits and job protections.
Proposition 22 was bankrolled largely by Uber and Lyft and aims to create an exemption to a labor-friendly law passed by the Legislature last year.
Voters were also being asked to unspool part of landmark Proposition 13, the 1970s law that set strict limits on property tax increases and fueled a national tax revolt. A ballot proposal being pushed by public worker unions would peel back protections for commercial and industrial property and impose as much as $12.5 billion in new taxes to benefit schools and local governments.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.