Politics & Government

Sacramento voters turn out in record numbers, but wait hours

Mirroring national and state trends, Sacramento voters turned out in record numbers for Tuesday’s election, but at many vote centers were stuck in line for hours waiting to cast their ballots.

County elections officials had processed more than 276,000 ballots as of midday Tuesday, spokeswoman Janna Haynes said. That number included 260,117 ballots that had been dropped off or mailed prior to election day. Sacramento election officials predicted the turnout for this election would far surpass numbers seen in prior gubernatorial general elections.

Casting those votes was not an easy process for many.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Sacramento county elections officials emailed media to report long lines at some voting centers and asking outlets to tell readers and viewers that anyone in line at 8 p.m., when the polls closed, would be allowed to vote.

At 7:15 p.m., 45 minutes before the polls closed, local elections officials reported a two-hour wait to vote at the Wackford Aquatic Complex in Elk Grove. Long lines were also reported at the California Museum in downtown Sacramento and at the library in Antelope.

At Sacramento State, hundreds of students lined up out the door of Modoc Hall and onto the sidewalk, waiting as darkeness fell to register and cast their ballots.

Matthew Fox, a government major who was registered to vote in Los Angeles, waited more than two hours to turn in a conditional registration form so he could vote in Sacramento.

Fox thought registering to vote meant he could vote any place in the state. After discovering his error, he said he was glad to learn California is one of a handful of states that allow last-minute voter registration.

There are only 15 states that allow election-day registration. Sacramento elections officials said between 300 and 400 people registered to vote Tuesday.

“Don’t think that your vote doesn’t count, because it always does,” Fox said.

Jillian Robinson and Mark Samuel Abbott cut into the Sacramento State line with friends to avoid the wait.

“It’s like Disneyland out here, everybody wants to get here,” Abbott said.

Robinson said the campus had been abuzz with political talk in recent days, with students encouraging others to make informed decisions and double-checking their registrations.

Abbott and Robinson both said that President Donald Trump was a motivating factor for their participation in this election.

“You’re not going to go out and vote if you don’t want something to change, and I think everybody is ready for some change,” Abbott said.

Dee Khang avoided the line altogether by dropping off her mail-in ballot, which she said she always does out of convenience.

Khang said she wanted young people to vote, stressing the importance of turning out for midterms.

“I feel like if you love your country or you want to make some changes in your country, you need to vote, because if you don’t vote you kind of have no say in whatever the outcome is,” Khang said.

In the general election in November 2014, another midterm and gubernatorial election, Sacramento County had a total of about 330,000 ballots cast. Just under 311,000 ballots were cast in Sacramento County in this year’s June primary.

The largest local turnout in at least a decade was the 2016 general election, when 575,711 ballots were cast in Sacramento.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said a record 19.6 million Californians are registered to vote in this election. That’s about 78 percent of eligible voters — the highest percentage for a gubernatorial election since 1950.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee