Tens of thousands of mail-in, provisional and paper ballots still remain to be counted in San Mateo County, and a tight race for three seats on the East Palo Alto City Council hinges on the final tally.
Deputy Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder David Tom said Wednesday that an unusually high number of voters dropped off mail-in ballots at the polls Tuesday. Many others forgot their mail-in ballots or had other problems that led to their filling out provisional ballots on Election Day. And, as usual, some residents didn't want to vote by machine so were given paper ballots, which are still being tallied.
An election update could be available by Friday, Tom said.
"We're going to break some records on the number of ballots returned on election night," Tom said. "I'm looking at 70,000 or more in the combination of mail ballots, provisional ballots and paper ballots. But that's just a rough estimate."
As of Tuesday night, about 204,287 ballots in San Mateo County had been cast and counted, according to the elections office. That represents about 56.5 percent of the number of residents registered to vote.
In East Palo Alto, where there were reports of long lines and polling sites that ran out of the envelopes used for provisional ballots, the turnout rate was 39.4 percent, election office records show.
Tom confirmed that those problems occurred but noted that it was no different elsewhere throughout the county.
East Palo Alto
"Obviously they didn't plan for it," Abrica said. "With a presidential election, they should have especially anticipated the crowds. Black communities, Latino communities, there was going to be a lot of effort to mobilize people. This time I feel like there is no excuse. ... It's a very delicate issue, and people, rightfully so, will get angry and feel disenfranchised."
The sizeable number of uncounted ballots has also left East Palo Alto without clear victors in the city council race.
As of Tuesday night, Mayor Laura Martinez was the top vote getter, with 1,294 or 17.2 percent of the total, followed by Larry Moody with 1,279 or 17 percent, and Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier with 1,183 or 15.7 percent. Council Member Peter Evans came in fourth place and could lose his seat, although only 84 votes separated him from Yarbrough-Gauthier.
"I would hope all the votes would be counted before a winner is declared," Evans said Wednesday, adding that he was contacted by constituents about the lines and the shortage of election supplies. "Obviously, there were some problems."
The county tried to anticipate the supplies needed for each polling place and worked quickly to get more envelopes to any precinct that ran out, Tom said.