With Election Day looming tomorrow, city officials are preparing to handle its first city-run election in decades. Santa Barbara City Council chambers will be Election Day central, and the public will be able to watch the vote counting process, either in-person or via television and the Internet.
Security will be tight, and the process is very deliberate. “It’s important to recognize there is an elections code we have to follow,” city administrative services director Marcelo Lopez said. “We don’t have a lot of say in what we can and can’t do.” But it will all be open to the public.
Not long after 8 p.m., when polls close, boxes containing ballots from the city’s 33 precincts will be sealed and transported to City Hall, where they will be processed and counted by deputized election workers. According to city officials, results from the more than 7,000 absentee ballots already turned in should become available about 10 minutes after the 8 p.m. closure. The only ballots which won’t be counted Tuesday night will be absentee ballots turned in at City Hall or other polling places after 3:30 p.m., and provisional ballots. Time is needed to verify names and signatures on those ballots, Lopez explained.
At least two people are involved in every transaction, he said. The city, one of 66 in California running its own elections, has more than 200 people working the election tomorrow.
City Television Channel 18 will televise the process live, and the streaming live video will also be available at SBCityVote.org. Detailed results will also be available at the website. The public will be allowed to enter City Hall from the Anacapa Street side on election night, while the De la Guerra Plaza entrance will be reserved only for people with special needs, election workers and those delivering ballots. From 7 p.m. until all the ballots are received, parking in De la Guerra Plaza will also be limited to vehicles transporting ballots from the polls.
Eight candidates-three incumbents and five challengers-are running for three seats on the City Council. There is also a ballot measure which would amend the city’s charter to switch municipal elections from odd to even years.
The city has 44,361 registered voters, Lopez said. In 2003, 19.66 percent of voters voted absentee, while 21.66 percent voted at the polls. While there is no way of know the percentages for this year as of yet, Lopez anticipates a larger number of absentee this year.