Election count continues


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Madera County Clerk Recorder Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez, left, and incoming Madera County Supervisor Leticia Gonzalez stay busy working on election day.

Long-time elected Madera County Clerk Recorder Rebecca Martinez said the 2020 election and election day went smoothly but urged patience as approximately 11,000-plus paper ballots county and city wide remain outstanding and are still being processed, signatures verified and then counted.

Early preliminary, unofficial election results Tuesday night caused some confusion when they were posted the evening of the election. Martinez said these results represented only about 40,955 votes cast either by mail or in person and received and processed by 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night, the day of the election.

The next updated unofficial count was published by 4 p.m. on Friday on VoteMadera.com on the official elections department website. Any remaining valid ballots will be reflected in subsequent updates released on the following Tuesday and Fridays. The final results of the election must be certified on or before December 4.

California state law now allows an additional 17 days, extra time due to the pandemic, for any mail-in ballots received, processed and counted if any, as long as those ballots are postmarked or placed into official ballot boxes by the close of business on election day.

Even with the unprecedented number of voters this year, the elections department had been extremely busy for months — planning and trying to prepare for every possible contingency. Martinez had taken early advantage of The Voters Choice Act in 2018, a trial state program available to counties that made it easier and more convenient for residents to vote by expanding voting hours, days and locations, and also mailed out paper ballots to every local resident verified on voter rolls. The tabulation process allows only one ballot to be recorded per voter, whether it is done by mail or in person.

About 67,000 residents were registered to vote in the 2020 election in Madera County, according to recent records. Any non-citizen residents who have legally obtained a California driver’s license under Assembly Bill 60 are not automatically enrolled in voter registration rolls and are not eligible to vote, according to Martinez.

A steady stream of vehicles and residents flowed into the Madera County Government Center on election day late Tuesday afternoon. About half were dropping off ballots from their cars into the secure curbside drop off boxes, while others personally walked inside the building with their ballots or to stand in a socially distanced line to vote in person.

Some unregistered residents walked up and requested to register to vote and cast a conditional vote that same day, which is allowed under California state law.

A vote trailer was also set up in the parking lot of the adjacent Housing Authority building to offer an outdoor, overflow option for residents wishing to cast their votes in an open air setting, according to Martinez. The newly acquired vote mobile was driven to Oakhurst to function as a vote center during the recent public safety power shut offs. No significant issues the day of the election were reported and no one was left standing in line at 8 p.m. when the polls closed, officials said.

“This election was like nothing I have ever encountered and I’ve been doing this a long time.” Martinez said. “With all the social unrest and misinformation out there ... television, social media influences. The public needs to know their votes are just as sacred to us as they are to them. It’s a process. We verify signatures and count every vote (legally) cast. We are public servants. It’s our job to preserve the integrity of the election ... We’ve been practicing ... for a while but I think this one came together pretty well, at the right time,” she said.

Martinez said she also wanted to thank the elections staff and the 100 or so temporary, but great election poll workers all over the county who voluntarily stepped up during the pandemic and braved long hours, and potentially difficult or intense situations with the public to ensure the democratic process functioned and the election integrity was preserved.

“They believe in the process. They are dedicated. We could not have done it without all of them,” she said.

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