Merced County Times Newspaper
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Thousands of ballots still being processed

The total estimated number of ballots to be processed from the March 5 Primary Election was 13,990, as of Wednesday morning, according to the Merced County Elections Department. More results were expected to drop Wednesday evening, but unfortunately that’s past the Times weekly press deadline.

At a regular board meeting on Tuesday, Merced County Supervisor Scott Silveira thanked the Registrar of Voters Mel Levey for his leadership in the local election process, and commented on the ballot counting, saying “it’s never fast enough.”

“It’s just our system with everybody getting mailed a ballot, you don’t get the big [push] of in-person voting information. We have to follow [the rules of] the state. … They are doing the good work of getting the ballots counted, and I would encourage anybody who wants to go see, there are viewing areas at the Elections Warehouse to see how the process works.”

Supervisor Silveira pointed to the time-consuming process of ballot signature verification as one of the steps being conducted by Elections staff.
“Once ballots get to Merced County, I’m really confident that our elections are done with the utmost care and transparency,” he said.

Silveira, who represents the county’s West Side, did have some criticism of three Voting Centers that officials had up and running for 10 days before the Primary.
“I’m all about letting folks have access but what’s the cost?” he asked. “We had one in Los Banos and two on the east side of the county. Just imagine the cost. You have to fully staff them, and provide all the equipment. … We got 13 people who came in the weekend before the election, and so when you look at that, the cost is borne by the taxpayers. I don’t think it’s very efficient.”

The supervisor promised to find out and share information on the total cost of those three Vote Centers that were open for an extended period.

Where candidates stand

As of Wednesday morning, most of the results were trending for local candidates in the same direction that was revealed on Election Night.

Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinosa is the one incumbent who appears in danger of losing a seat. His challenger Jim Pacheco, on Wednesday, remained up with 55.42 percent of the total vote. The incumbents in two other supervisor races, Josh Pedrozo and Lloyd Pareira, appear to be well-ahead of their challengers.

Measure C — the half-cent sales tax initiative to support public safety in Merced — appears to be in a very good position to pass, with 69.49 percent of the vote.

Monika Saini-Donabed, with a commanding lead over her two other competitors, looks to be on her way to being the next judge to take a seat at the Merced County Superior Court.

Congressman John Duarte (R-Modesto) was up on his challenger, Merced Democrat Adam Gray, with 55.1 percent of the vote in the 13th District.
In the State Assembly District 27 race, challenger Joanna Garcia Rose had 51 percent of the vote compared to incumbent Esmeralda Soria’s 49 percent.

Voter turnout

As of Wednesday morning, the Registrar of Voters listed overall voter turnout at 17.64 percent. That would be 22,632 ballots cast out of the county’s total number of registered voters, listed as 128,287 for the Primary.

According to the Merced County League of Women Voters, the total population of the county is 290,014. Of that number, 172,915 are eligible to vote.

This data did not seem to sit well with local activist Gloria Sandoval, who addressed the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday about the matter. She called for leaders to do more outreach so that more people will get out and vote.

“I think there are a lot of young people who are dropping out of their democratic right to vote, and I think it’s incumbent on us to really be able to share with them that it’s important,” she told the leaders. “We are heading toward a very important ballot in November, and I think there should be an effort for us to reach [potential voters]. It’s really the heart of our democracy to have people participate.”

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