A new wrinkle has appeared in Santa Barbara’s ongoing City Council elections; the city will be sending the ballots — which will determine who will represent the Eastside and Mesa neighborhoods in city government — to Norwalk in Los Angeles County to be counted. After the Tuesday, November 5 vote closes, the 125-mile lag could delay knowing the winners and losers until the following Friday.
The city contracted with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office to count its ballots two hours away because Santa Barbara County has no election setup this November and because the company it had previously used had gone out of business, said Sarah Gorman, who oversees city elections and who noted the issue was previously discussed before the council. It’s a loss to candidates, supporters, and lurking journalists who have watched tubs full of ballots being counted in plain view in council chambers on Election Night. The ballot results that night were usually high enough to give some certainty of the final outcome.
As of Wednesday, 1,404 ballots had been processed by City Hall, Gorman said, with about two weeks to go. That’s compared to the 16,881 of total ballots that were mailed to District 1 and 2 voters for the November 5 City Council election.
Now the traditional Election Night dancing and cork-popping will be tempered by the fact that only the ballots received by Saturday, November 2 will be in the first tally of votes. Though Santa Barbara plans to drive the ballots to Norwalk on Tuesday night, Los Angeles County won’t run a second tally of newly received ballots until Friday, November 8. Although that count will make winners and losers more apparent, certainty won’t occur until the last tally on Wednesday, November 13, which will count all the ballots popped in the mail on Election Day and also those missing signatures but signed by the 13th, Gorman explained.
To enhance ballot collection, City Hall is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Before Election Day, City Hall will be open on Saturday, November 2 to accept ballots 8 a.m.-5 p.m. On Election Day (Nov. 5), City Hall will accept ballots from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. — as will Franklin Neighborhood Center (1136 E. Montecito St.) and Holy Cross Church (1740 Cliff Dr.).
Mail-in ballots went out on October 7 for the two districts voting this time around — the Eastside and the Mesa. But if you haven’t received yours, said Gorman, contact her office at (805) 564-5309 or firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a duplicate.
[Update: Nov. 3] Norwalk will be counting the ballots Santa Barbara receives as of Monday, November 4, the day before the election, Sarah Gorman stated in an update. The ballots received and processed by November 6 will be in the November 8 tally.