While some polling places across Monterey County reported a slow start to Tuesday’s primary election, the Monterey County Elections Office maintained patience by midday.
Registrar of Voters Gina Martinez said that by Tuesday afternoon, Monterey County was at about 16% returns. That’s around 34,000 ballots processed out of just over 208,000 registered voters throughout the county.
The local ballot return rate tracks with early election trends emerging statewide. Though every registered voter in the state was mailed a ballot, only 16% had gotten them to election officials or turnout at early in-person vote centers late Tuesday morning, according to the consulting firm Political Data Intelligence.
Martinez assured the 72 polling places — as well as the elections office and more than 500 poll workers — operating across Monterey County Tuesday were prepared for 100% voter turnout.
“Our poll workers are reporting that people are coming and they are having a good day at the polling places,” said Martinez. At the county election office in Salinas, Martinez said there was a steady stream of voters — either voting in person or dropping off ballots — through early Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, other polling locations in Salinas noted a little less engagement for this year’s primary. At a polling place stationed on Hartnell College’s main campus, site inspector William Harry, who said this election was his fourth time working at a polling place, described Tuesday’s initial in-person turnout as “uncharacteristically light.”
Harry, and other poll workers at Hartnell, explained the Salinas site is usually a hub for voting. This year, however, only about seven people had come in to vote in person since the polling place opened at 7 a.m., Harry said. A bulk of the activity workers saw Tuesday, Harry continued, was people dropping off ballots.
Poll workers at the Monterey County Fairgrounds noted a similar sentiment of quietness among in-person participation but recognized a moderate return rate of pre-filled ballots.
Over in Del Rey Oaks, workers said turnout had been slow but consistent through the early hours of the primary, explaining that as a small city, residents liked to visit their long-standing local polling place in person.
Of the local races on the table Tuesday, the sprint for Monterey County sheriff is among the most competitive. A four-way contest, the race has been shaped by promises — as well as — tests of trust, honesty and openness, especially after years of rancor within the Sheriff’s Office. Most recently, candidate and sheriff’s Capt. Joe Moses is facing lawsuits relating to the 2018 sheriff’s race when he supported Bernal. Meanwhile, last year, sitting Sheriff Steve Bernal was censured for what the Monterey County Board of Supervisors considered inappropriate spending.
A battle between Sheriff’s Office insiders and outsiders, Moses is joined on the candidate list by sheriff’s deputy Justin Patterson, Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto, and Del Rey Oaks Police Chief Jeffrey Hoyne. Like other races on the ballot Tuesday, if any candidate achieves more than 50% of the vote, they will be elected and the contest will not appear in the general election. In the event that no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will move forward to the general election in November.
Six candidates are vying to succeed soon-to-be-retired Supervisor John Phillips, who served District 2 — which includes Pajaro, Aromas, Moss Landing, Castroville, Prunedale and parts of North Salinas — for two terms.
Hopefuls include Glenn Church, local business owner; Kimbley Craig, Salinas mayor; Regina Gage, executive director of Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley; Grant Leonard, city of Monterey housing analyst; Adriana Melgoza Ramirez, director of the Salinas-based nonprofit Center for Community Advocacy; and Steve Snodgrass, who recently retired as chief financial officer of Granite Rock Co.
On the education front, Jake Odello and Annette Yee Steck are going head-to-head in the race to fill an open seat on the Monterey County Board of Education. The seat — representing Trustee Area 1, which includes New Monterey, Pacific Grove, Del Monte Forest, Carmel, Carmel Valley and Big Sur — is up for grabs for the second time since September, when previous Area 1 Trustee Harvey Kuffner passed away, leaving the position vacant.
In the wake of Kuffner’s death, Monterey County Office of Education board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Yee Steck to fill the open slot. However, earlier this year a petition with over 500 validated signatures was filed to remove her, resulting in the special election included in Tuesday’s primary.
As for key local issues on the ballot, the long-awaited, and debated, Measure B appeared before voters. The measure stands in opposition to the proposed 1.5-mile section of the Fort Ord Regional Trail and Greenway project running through Del Rey Oaks.
Opponents of Measure B say it “foolishly squanders $10.3 million of state funding already allocated to improve” the city of Del Rey Oaks. But supporters of Measure B say it will help preserve the quality of life in Del Rey Oaks and protect the Frog Pond from overuse. A simple majority, more than 50% of the vote, is needed to pass the measure.
Initial election results are expected shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, according to the Monterey County Elections Office, followed by a second result after 10 p.m. Subsequent hourly reports will be issued until all ballots cast at the polls are counted.
Additional reports issued after Election Day include vote-by-mail ballots that were received by mail or at the polls; vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day and received during the seven days after the election; and provisional ballots.
Results and updates will be posted to www.MontereyCountyElections.us. Results will also be certified no later than July 7.
Contributed by local news sources