A total of 19,220 vote-by-mail ballots in Tuolumne County and 13,639 in Calaveras County have yet to be received by elections officials ahead of the primary election on Tuesday.
Those who are registered to vote by mail have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to drop off their ballots at a polling place or the elections office in their respective county. Ballots that are postmarked on or before Tuesday will also be counted if turned in within three business days after the election.
A large majority of voters in both counties are registered to receive vote-by-mail ballots.
There are 30,392 registered voters in Tuolumne County and 24,502 receive vote-by-mail ballots, about 80 percent. There are 19,020 registered to vote by mail in Calaveras County, about 66 percent of the total 28,455 registered voters.
Debi Bautista, county clerk and auditor-controller for Tuolumne County, said the elections office had received 5,282 vote-by-mail ballots as of Thursday.
The number received as of Thursday represented about 21 percent of the total number that were issued. Bautista said there were about 7,054 vote-by-mail ballots returned by that time prior to the June 2016 primary election.
“We’re a little light, and I’m not quite sure why,” she said. “It could be that we’re going to have a light turnout.”
Bautista noted that 2016 was a presidential election year, which usually generates a higher voter turnout than midterms.
The overall voter turnout in Tuolumne County for the June 2016 primary election was about 59 percent, while the overall turnout in June 2014 was about 41 percent.
In June 2016, the turnout for in Tuolumne County who voted by mail was about 77 percent. Bautista said the turnout for vote-by-mail is typically higher than the overall turnout.
Whether the new law allowing those to vote who didn’t register before the deadline has any impact on the outcome remains to be seen, though Bautista said she believes it will be unlikely to swing any countywide races.
“Something countywide probably wouldn’t be affected, but 50 votes could swing a Sonora City Council election,” she said. “The voter could absolutely make a difference.”
The number of vote-by-mail ballots that had been returned to the Calaveras County Elections Office as of Friday was 5,381, about 28 percent of the total issued, according to Assistant County Clerk-Recorder Robin Glanville.
Glanville said the percentage returned at this point is on par with past elections.
“We’ll get additional vote-by-mails that get returned at the polls,” she said, adding that the rate at which people return their ballots fluctuates prior to the election. “We’ll get a lot at first, then it quiets down. Closer to election day, we’ll get a lot more.”
A new state law allows eligible voters who didn’t register before the May 21 deadline to still have their votes counted through “conditional voter registration” at their respective elections offices until 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The Tuolumne County Elections Office, located inside the County Administration Center at 2 S. Green St. in Sonora, will be open at a special time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for people to fill out or drop off their vote-by-mail ballots, or register to vote conditionally if they missed the May 21 deadline.
The office will also be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The Calaveras County Elections Office, located at the Government Center at 891 Mountain Ranch Road in San Andreas, will not be open Saturday. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Contact Alex MacLean at email@example.com or (209) 588-4530.