Ballot drop boxes being installed at Windmill Market in October 2020. This will be a ballot drop box location again for the 2024 elections

The 2024 primary election season is officially underway and now is the time to get informed on how to participate in the democratic process. 

The primaries can sometimes be overshadowed by the presidential candidates vying for the general election ballot in November. However, state and local contests that will directly affect residents of San Benito County will be decided on March 5. 

The San Benito County elections office has moved from its home in downtown Hollister due to a September 2023 fire that damaged the building. The office’s new location for the 2024 election is at 1601 Lana Way, near the airport  A new voting center has also been added at the Abundant Life Foursquare Church at 790 Bolsa Rd. in Hollister.

San Benito County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Francisco Diaz says that despite a challenging year for his office, they are confident that this will be a successful election. He also stresses that voters check their registered party affiliations so they get to cast ballots for their preferred presidential candidate.

Diaz also wants voters to know that the elections office is operating in transparency.

“We run a fully transparent office, so if anybody wants to come into the office for a tour; to watch a signature check; watch us count the ballots or just come talk to me, I have an open door policy,” Diaz said.

Now, let’s get into it.

Voter registration

First things first and in order to participate in the primary election, you have to be registered to vote in the State of California. In order to register you have to meet certain requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Reside in California 
  • Not currently serving time in state or federal prison for a felony conviction
  • Not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court

You can register to vote in a number of ways, including online, through the mail and in person. For online and mail-in registration, the deadline to register is Feb. 19. If you are mailing in your registration, make sure it is postmarked for that date. If registering in person, you can do so up until election day. You will receive a voter notification card by mail approximately two to three weeks after registration. You can do so at various locations, including the elections office, any county post office, the San Benito County Free Library and at your local polling station on election day.

Voting by mail

Over 90 % of San Benito County residents vote by mail, according to the county clerk/registrar of voters’ office. If you would like to vote by mail, here’s how to do it:

Voting by mail begins 29 days prior to election day. Delivery times for your ballot may vary between 3-10 days. If you need a replacement ballot mailed to you, the last day to request the ballot is seven days before election day. No postage is necessary when mailing your ballot. If you are returning your ballot the week before the election, consider doing it in person.

Make sure your signature matches the one on your registration and sign the outside of the envelope with an “x,” or else it might not be counted.

Ballot drop box locations

If you have a mail in ballot, you have the option to drop it off at one of the six designated drop box locations. This year, the drop boxes are located at:

  • The former elections department office, located on Wynn Alley next to the library in downtown Hollister 
  • Near True Value on Fourth Street in downtown Hollister
  • Community Food Bank on San Felipe Road in Hollister
  • Ridgemark office parking lot
  • Fire Station #2 off Valley View Road in Hollister
  • Windmill Shopping Center in San Juan Bautista
  • Aromas Fire Station

Voting center locations

If you are voting in person, you can do so beginning on March 1, up until election day on March 5. Voting centers will be open from 8am to 5pm prior to election day and until 8pm on election day. Here’s where you can vote:

  • The county elections department, now located at 1601 Lana Way in Hollister
  • Abundant Life Foursquare Church in Hollister
  • St. Benedict’s Church in Hollister
  • San Juan Bautista Community Center

Voting in the Primaries

For the presidential primaries, if you are registered with a political party, you will receive a ballot that contains presidential candidates for that party only. If you have registered with no party preference, your ballot will not have an option to vote on a presidential candidate. 

Some political parties offer crossover voting, in which you can vote for their candidate even if you have registered with no party preference. These are the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party and the Libertarian Party. The deadline to change your party affiliation is Feb. 24.

National, State and Local Races

This primary election, a number of national, state and local seats are in contention as some perennial incumbents are being challenged by political newcomers. The seats for U.S. Representative for California’s 18th congressional district; the state senate’s 17th district and the state assembly’s 29th district are up for grabs. In San Benito County, the supervisor seats for Districts 1, 2 and 5 are in play.

U.S. Representative, 18th District

Zoe Lofgren, congresswoman (incumbent)

 Charlene Concepcion Nijmeh, tribal chairwoman

Peter D. Hernandez, small business owner

Luele N. KIfle, disaster housing inspector

Lawrence Milan, bartender

State Senate, 17th District

John Laird, state senator (incumbent)

 Michael Oxford, AV technician 

Eric Tao, computer science professor 

Tony Virrueta, veterans advocate

State Assembly, 29th District

Robert Rivas, assembly speaker (incumbent)

J.W. Paine, Teamster

San Benito County Supervisor, District 1

Dom Zanger, supervisor (incumbent) 

Stacie A. McGrady, retired law enforcement officer 

Dustin Weber, attorney.quality director

San Benito County Supervisor, District 2

Kollin Kosmicki, supervisor (incumbent)

 John Freeman, council member, City of San Juan Bautista

San Benito County Supervisor, District 5

Bea Gonzales, supervisor (incumbent) 

Ignacio Velazquez, business owner

Stay informed

Look into the various candidates and races to get informed on the issues that affect you in order to make your voice heard. The Free Lance will be diving into the candidates in the coming weeks so stay tuned.

If you have any questions regarding the 2024 primary elections, you can contact the San Benito County elections department at (831) 636-4016.

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