SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — After weeks of early voting and voting by mail, voters will have their final chance to cast ballots Tuesday.
Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The sites have been open since Saturday in San Diego County. The extended hours are among several changes made to help fight against the spread of the coronavirus. Polling places were cut from about 1,600 to 235 sites, and officials set up more than 100 drop-off locations.
It’s also not too late to turn in your mail ballot or register to vote and cast a ballot. All vote-by-mail ballots must be dropped off or postmarked Tuesday to be counted. If you still need to register, you can do so at the registrar’s office or any polling location, and your vote will be counted once officials verify your eligibility.
Local voters will help pick a president, San Diego’s next mayor and at least two new members of Congress, along with a range of ballot measures and other contests.
Our team of reporters has been out talking to voters and poll workers since polling places opened on Saturday. Here's what we saw and heard.
At Bay Park Elementary in San Diego, a handful of voters waited in a small line shortly after school doors opened for voting at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Throughout the morning, several dozen voters cast ballots in person or dropped off their mail ballots. A poll worker greeting people at the entrance collected mail ballots in a yellow bag. She wore a mask, a face shield and two layers of protective gloves.
Longtime voter Rick Fitzgerald, 76, was among the early voters. He said he typically votes by mail, but this year his ballot never arrived. He was unaware of all the changes to the election this year, but said his experience voting went very well.
“It was perfect,” he said. “I didn’t see a glitch in it.”
As for the final day of voting on Tuesday and potential election problems or protests, Fitzgerald said: “What happens, happens. I got no control over that.”
– Mary Plummer
DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO
Voter traffic was slow at the San Diego Convention Center polling location on Saturday afternoon, with fewer than a dozen voters walking in during a one-hour span. The voting booths are tucked away in Hall B, separate from the homeless residents sheltering at the south end of the convention center due to the pandemic.
Jo Birdsell, the site manager, said most of Saturday had been slow, but staff was ready to deal with any challenges. The first issue to come up was when a man entered the polling location wearing a Trump face mask. Wearing campaign-related items, including hats, shirts or face masks, naming a specific candidate within 100 feet of the poll is prohibited, and staff had to ask him to remove it.
“He was gracious and turned his mask inside out, and (he) voted and was off,” Birdsell said, adding that it wound up not being much of an issue. “It’s been very smooth. I would knock on wood if I could find it,” she said with a laugh.
Signage indicating where to vote was limited over the weekend, but officials added more signs Monday morning. Officials say convention center parking is free – vouchers are being handed out to voters to cover the cost.
– Cody Dulaney
More than two dozen wild turkeys wandered in and took over the empty outdoor sports field at Mountain Empire High School in Pine Valley on Sunday afternoon. The polling location inside the high school is the only polling place for miles around in this rural area of East County.
The turnout was a slow trickle throughout the day with dozens of voters driving in from places like Boulevard and Campo. It was Sarah Lobio’s first time voting. When the 19-year-old entered the gym where the voting booths were set up, poll workers rang a bell and cheered, a ritual reserved for first-time voters that they repeated several times during the afternoon.
“I just think it’s important for everyone to vote,” Lobio said of voting as a young person. “I know there’s a lot of people who especially in this election choose not to, but I think it’s important that since we have freedom to do that, that we use that, because we have a choice in what happens in our world.”
– Camille von Kaenel
SOUTHEAST SAN DIEGO
Webster Elementary School was one of only two polling places open in its ZIP code in the 2020 general election, compared to 21 in the 2018 general election, so it was new to many voters dropping by on Sunday afternoon. Poll workers said the site was running smoothly, though people had heightened concerns about their vote being counted. City Heights resident Pam Garcia never got her mail-in ballot at home and said she hoped no one had already used it to vote fraudulently. Poll workers answered her questions, explaining her signature would be verified to make sure her vote was counted. Then they asked about her husband, Art Garcia, who was waiting in the car and hadn’t registered or intended to vote that day. They brought him in and helped him cast a ballot.
“It’s so nice that we can come in early like this,” said Pam Garcia after voting.
“Well, I’m not used to it,” chimed in her husband, adding Tuesday could be different. “It could get crazy on the third.”
“But this is a piece of cake,” she said.
– Camille von Kaenel
The third day of voting at the Norman Park Senior Center, sandwiched between residential neighborhoods and the heart of downtown Chula Vista, came as city officials began enforcing paid parking for the first time since the pandemic struck. But poll workers said the location was running smoothly with a few voters coming in late Monday morning to cast their ballots. The center saw a brief line Sunday as surrounding churches ended services but hasn’t had an overwhelming turnout, workers said.
Chula Vista has 20 polling locations this year, down from 107 during the 2018 election. The Norman Park Senior Center is one of seven in the 91910 ZIP code, where more than three-fourths of the locations were cut.
Chula Vista resident Scott Lohr was on hand as a first-time poll worker. He said he took vacation days at his full-time job because he was compelled to work the polls this year after watching President Donald Trump question the validity of mail-in ballots.
Lohr said most visitors are coming to turn in their completed ballots.
“There’s this nebulous fear they have that mail-in is susceptible to not being counted,” he said.
– Jennifer Bowman
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