From the time Geoffrey Bara parked his car to the moment he walked out of the Agoura Hills Courtyard Hotel with an ‘I Voted’ sticker, only seven minutes had passed. Bara is one of many voters choosing to visit a polling place in the final days of voting across California.
Twelve million people have voted so far, the first year in which California sent everyone a vote-by-mail ballot. It’s projected that the total will ultimately exceed the vote of 14.6 million in 2016, the previous presidential election year. Many mailed in their ballots, others dropped them in boxes or, like Bara, voted the old-fashioned way, with a machine. Tonight marks the end of early voting, and for a variety of reasons–insecurity about mailing it in, a desire to vote in person–some people still opt to show up and vote.
For Bara, the Courtyard Hotel site in Los Angeles County was practically empty when he visited.
“It was ideal for me, I felt very safe if only because there was really no need to adhere to anything because there was nobody there,” he said.
Dana Scoby, who had to evacuate from her home in Santa Cruz County due to the fires, last weekend made her way to the mobile trailer that has been traversing the mountains back roads as an ad hoc polling place. Scoby’s usual polling place was closed due to the pandemic. “We were a little skeptical, and then other people confirmed they were tracking their ballot,” she said. She ducked into the van, and voted.
Darcy J., a San Diego county voter who didn’t want to provide her last name, deposited her ballot in a drop box at a polling place in Oceanside. There were almost no lines around 2 p.m. when she went to the MiraCosta College drop site.
She lives with elderly family members and took extra precautions to make sure her ballot got in safely and on time. “I wanted to have a secure way to drop off my ballot,” Darcy said. “I thought that that would be the least amount of time I would be inside a building.”
Darcy said her son, 18, has been waiting to vote for weeks. “I asked him how many of his friends are voting, he goes, ‘Honestly, I don’t know anyone who’s not voting.’”
She emphasized the importance of participating in the election, not only for her son and young voters but for the 22 million other registered voters across the state of California. “You can’t complain about the outcome if you don’t make the effort,” she said.
For Bara, a Biden supporter, the outcome of the election is more important than any recording-breaking vote total. “I’m not gonna care how many people voted, and I’m not really gonna care about anything else, he said. “Without the victory it really won’t mean much.”
Zachary Fletcher and Ley Heimgartner are reporters at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.