Election 2020: Live updates from Hollister

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Several voters dropped off their ballots on Nov. 2 at the County of San Benito Registrar of Voters office on Fifth Stret in Hollister. (Juan Reyes)

11pm: “Semi-official” results in

It looks like we’ll have to wait until Wednesday morning to see final local election results from the San Benito County Registrar of Voters. The hotly-contested District 2 Supervisor race was too close to call, with Kollin Kosmicki leading Wayne Norton by 96 votes. That doesn’t look to be the case in the District 4 Supervisor contest, as Bob Tiffany totaled 1,974 votes to Mike Mansmith’s 1,605 and looked to be victorious.

Ignacio Velazquez won another Hollister mayoral term, earning 58.1 percent of the vote. Rick Perez was victorious in the Hollister City Council District 1 race, while Tim Burns looked to be in good shape to win the Council District 4 seat. Scott Freels and John Freeman are running 1-2 for two San Juan Bautista City Council seats, but Jackie Morris-Lopez is running a close third.

In the San Benito County Board of Education District 1 race, Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez won in impressive fashion by garnering 47 percent of the vote to Mary Anne Filice’s 37 percent. In the Hollister School District Trustee Area 2 race, Elizabeth Martinez was a runaway winner by totaling 74 percent of the votes cast. In Trustee Area 4, Lisa Marks numbered 1,860 votes to Rob Bernosky’s 1,382.

9pm:

Measure N, which would create the Strada Verde Specific Plan in northern San Benito County, is losing by a wide margin in the early vote count, according to the county registrar’s website.

With early and vote by mail ballots counted shortly after the close of polls at 8pm, “No” votes on Measure N account for about 59 percent, or 12,298 votes cast so far. Votes in support of Measure N number 8,377, or about 41 percent.

If the voters approve Measure N, it would zone a 2,777-acre agricultural property in the area of Highways 25 and 101 for the Strada Verde Specific Plan. The plan would include a variety of commercial and industrial uses—including an automotive testing facility—as well as a 209.5-acre park. The plan would also preserve about 561 acres of the site for farmland.

Developer Newport Pacific Land Co. is the proponent of Measure N. The measure has been opposed by the Coalition to Protect San Benito, a group of local residents and environmentalists.

The Measure N vote count posted on the registrar’s website just after 8pm reflects about 60 percent of the county’s 35,480 registered voters.

A group of protesters were standing on the corner of Highway 156 and The Alameda in San Juan Bautista in response to the Strada Verde Innovation Park, which would consist of automotive testing facilities, an e-commerce center, a park and other features. (Juan Reyes)

8:36pm: First Results Are In

At 8:36pm, the San Benito County Registrar of Voters released the first round of votes. In the County Supervisor District 2 race, Kollin Kosmicki leads Wayne Norton by 101 votes. In the Supervisor District 4 race, Bob Tiffany has a strong lead with approximately 39 percent of the vote spread out among five candidates. Mike Mansmith is in second with 30 percent of the votes.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Ignacio Velazquez has a sizable lead over challenger Sal Mora (6,878 votes to 4,933). In the Hollister City Council D1 race, Rick Perez has jumped out to a huge lead over Jose Fernandez. In the City Council D4 contest, Tim Burns leads Julio Rodriguez by 200 votes. Two seats are open for San Juan Bautista City Council, where three candidates – Scott Freels (30.74 percent of the votes), John Freeman (29.67 percent) and Jackie Morris-Lopez (27.30 percent) – are in a tight battle.

In the Hollister School District Trustee Area 2 race, Elizabeth Martinez has a commanding lead over Leonard Espinoza, with 74.67 percent of the votes counted so far. In the Trustee Area 4 contest, Lisa Marks has a strong lead over Rob Bernosky, totaling 1,752 votes to Bernosky’s 1,284.


8pm:

The polls are now closed across California. 

County elections officials will work through the night counting ballots. 

“California elections officials prioritize the right to vote and election security over rushing the vote count,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “By law, county election officials have 30 days to count every valid ballot and conduct a post-election audit. Every vote-by-mail ballot goes through signature verification. Several safety nets to protect voting rights, including Same Day Voter Registration and provisional ballots, require additional processing time by elections officials, but we’d rather get it right than get it fast.”


7pm:

A group of girls from the Girl Scout Brownies, Troop 2001 got a first hand experience of what it was like to vote on Election Day. The second grade students were accompanied by their parents and troop leader Venissa Rosa of Hollister.

Rosa handed out “Future Voter” ballots to the children in front of the Veterans’ Memorial Building on San Benito Street in Hollister. She had them vote for their favorite snack, school subject, food, color, sport and house pet. 

After the Brownies filled out their ballots they headed inside the building to submit their ballot at one of the blue official drop boxes for in-person voting. Christy Trevino was on hand to watch her daughter, Avery, cast her vote on Election Day.

“It’s a wonderful thing to model behavior for your child and what’s important for the community,” Trevino said. “I want (Avery) to understand the importance of voting and speaking out for the good of the community.”


6pm:

Free Lance reporter Juan Reyes hit the streets of Hollister to check in with two of the four in-person polling stations in San Benito County. Click on the links below to watch the live video feeds on Facebook.

Veterans’ Memorial Building: https://www.facebook.com/1818764039/videos/10214426801583374/

County of San Benito Elections Office: https://www.facebook.com/1818764039/videos/10214426894385694/

Interview with Registrar of Voters Joe Paul Gonzalez: https://www.facebook.com/1818764039/videos/10214426945226965/


5pm:

Brianna Garcia was one of several volunteers helping on Election Day, Nov. 3, at the Veterans’ Memorial Building on San Benito Street.. (Juan Reyes)

Sheyla Gonzalez-Funes, bilingual senior deputy at the County Elections Office, said there was a line out of voters waiting at 6:45am to get inside the Veterans’ Memorial Building on San Benito Street. She said they were a little surprised to see several people waiting especially after in-person voting was available since Oct. 31.

“It was a lot slower than it was today,” she said. 

Gonzalez-Funes said they expected the Veterans’ Memorial Building to be one of the busiest spots for voters to show up because it’s closer to town. But she mentioned it’s been the total opposite maybe due to the ongoing construction on San Benito Street.

She said people have been heading out to St. Benedict Church and the Elections Office, who have then been sent to the Veterans’ Building to keep the flow of traffic moving. 

“We haven’t had any bad situations where the voters (are) unhappy,” she said. “It’s been an easy process experience and we don’t have long waiting times either, which I think that’s a plus.” 

Another reason voters are not showing up to in-person polling stations is because more of them are mailing in their ballots or dropping them off at one of several drop box locations—as listed below.

“It plays a huge factor because people are utilizing the vote-by-mail that was sent out,” Gonzalez-Funes said. 

Both the digital and write-in polling stations are sanitized as soon as voters leave. The pens that are used are also wiped down along with the pixie glass and any equipment that is touched. There’s no pre-screening such as temperature checks because it’s not mandatory but they are available if a voter requests it.

Cathy Fuller of Hollister has been a volunteer since 2012 and said that she believes the new changes such as polling centers instead of the usual polling precincts is keeping voters safe. She said the huge space and freedom of movement is what’s keeping voters protected, assuring they’re doing whatever it takes to keep the public as safe as possible. 

“Most importantly is we want transparency,” she said. “If there’s ever a time there’s a screaming need for transparency, it’s this year and this election.”

Cathy Fuller of Hollister was one of several volunteers helping on Election Day, Nov. 3, at the Veterans’ Memorial Building on San Benito Street.. (Juan Reyes)

4pm:

For candidates running for local elected office, the wait for the final voting results can be downright nerve-wracking. That’s why John Freeman, the incumbent who is running for one of two seats on San Juan Bautista’s City Council, keeps himself busy by reviewing contracts and 218-page documents. 

Yes, you got that correct. A hazardous-waste remediation consultant, Freeman spent this morning and the early afternoon reviewing a contract between the City of Hollister and the County Water Board and reading a 218-page document in preparation for a Central Coast Community Energy Board meeting on Wednesday. 

Freeman took note from a Facebook post from the local office that 57 percent of registered voters in the County had already voted as of Sunday. 

“I did some campaign work on Monday, and today I took a day off,” he said. “There is anticipation, a little nervous (emotion).”

Freeman chooses the low-tech approach when it comes to waiting for the final result, eschewing social media or online results for local TV news. 

“The last time (I ran) I just watched the results on channel 8 (KSBW) news,” he said. “There is a little scroll at the bottom that shows even when you’re watching for your favorite TV show. That’s probably how I’ll do it again tonight.”


1pm:

Wayne Norton, candidate for San Benito County Supervisor in District 2, earlier today shared a photo on his Facebook account: “These are my granddaughters. I ran for County Supervisor to build a bright future for them, and all of our county. Leslie and I started this campaign 19 months ago. I am enormously grateful for the support we have received and the new friendships that have been made. This has been a difficult year for the people of San Benito County, but brighter days are ahead. I know the heart of San Benito County, and I know when we work together nothing can stop us.”

Wayne Norton shares a photo and message on his Facebook account. (screenshot)


Noon:

The San Benito County Department of Elections wants to let voters know that there are four locations available to vote in-person and by mail ballot drop off. Each voting location will be regularly disinfected, require face coverings and have been adapted to allow for physical distancing measures. All in-person polling locations are open until 8pm and they include onsite ballot drop boxes.

San Benito County Elections Office – 440 Fifth Street, Hollister

Veterans Memorial Building – 649 San Benito Street, Hollister (parking available on the westside of San Benito Street)
 
San Juan Bautista Community Center – 10 San Jose Street, San Juan Bautista

St. Benedict Church – 1200 Fairview Road, Hollister

There are also eight additional ballot drop boxes that are open today until 8 pm

Hollister Super – 1280 San Juan Road, Hollister

Fire Station #2 – 2240 Valley View Road, Hollister
 
Windmill Center – 301 The Alameda, San Juan Bautista
 
FoodBank of San Benito County – 1133 San Felipe Road, Hollister
 
Ridgemark Office – 100 Ridgemark Drive, Hollister
 
Aromas Fire Station – 492 Carpenteria Road, Aromas
 
Dunneville Café & Market – 5970 San Felipe Rd, Hollister
 
Tres Pinos Market – 6851 Airline Highway, Tres Pinos

San Benito County assistant clerk-recorder-registrar of voters Francisco Diaz, left, spent an entire morning making sure the new official ballot drop boxes were installed throughout the county including the Windmill Market in San Juan Bautista. (Juan Reyes)

11:30am:

The Hollister Free Lance will be posting live election updates throughout the day (and night) on Nov. 3.

We’ll be updating this post frequently with election-related news, photos, reactions, results and any other tidbits we can find.

Hollister voters will choose a new mayor, as well as two city council members and two Hollister School District trustees, among other races in San Benito County. The Nov. 3 ballot will also feature Measure N, which would create the Strada Verde Specific Plan commercial/industrial development in the area of Highways 101 and 25. 

As of Nov. 3, there are 35,344 voters registered in the county, according to the Registrar of Voters’ Office.

As it has across the state, early voter turnout and ballot returns in San Benito County are expected to set records. As of Nov. 3, 61 percent of the ballots have been casted in the county, according to the county Registrar of Voters website.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Registrar of Voters Joe Paul Gonzalez. “We’ve never, ever, seen anything like it.”   

The turnout in the 2016 Presidential General Election saw 15,986 votes by mail and 6,558 voters show up to the polls on Election Day. It was the second straight presidential election where votes by mail outweighed the polling place.

“I’m over the top, feeling great. This is what keeps democracy strong, is voting,” Gonzalez said.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s the first time Registrar of Voters offices has had an outdoor voting polling place. Gonzalez said that the public has appreciated the effort and they’re enthused about showing up to vote.

The outdoor setup has also been somewhat of a reminder for bypassers who haven’t dropped off their ballots or show up to vote. This year was also the first time that voters can cast their ballots as early as three days prior to Election Day.

“There’s no question that increasing from one day to four days has really relieved a lot of voters of meeting that time crunch to be there on that one day, no doubt,” Gonzalez said.

Keep checking this post frequently for updates.