Dylan Escobar(left) and Maddy Smith cast there ballots at the polling place in Isla Vista Saturday October 31, 2020, the first day the polls opened in Santa Barbara. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

In downtown Santa Barbara, about 40 activists affiliated with Showing Up for Racial Justice Santa Barbara (SURJ S.B.) will be taking to three polling places on Election Day — November 3 — to ensure everyone who needs a face mask has one, but primarily to ensure there’s no voter intimidation taking place.

“Communities of color don’t feel safe, so that kind of spurred this action,” explained Kym Paszkeicz of SURJ S.B. “If there are any people intimidating others in line, that’s something we will be watching for.” 

Absent such provocations, she said, volunteers would be passing out face masks, hand sanitizer, and water should anyone need it. 

County elections officials have been supplying masks at 35 polling places countywide, which were opened this past Saturday and have been kept open since. Over the weekend, polling places have reported a slow but steady trickle of voters. Frequently polling staff — about 740 were hired countywide — have outnumbered the voters present. 

Masks are offered to those not wearing them; voting booths are sprayed down and washed with disinfectant after each use and likewise with the ballpoint pens offered to voters to fill in their ballots.

Poll workers at the San Marcos High School polling place reported a run-in with one voter who grew livid upon being told his mask — which did not cover his nose — was not sufficient. He refused to accept the mask offered. Because there were so few other voters present, he was allowed to vote. Everyone will be allowed to vote, poll workers explained. Had there been more voters present, he would have been asked to wait. 

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SURJ S.B. is affiliated with activist organizations like Healing Justice and El Centro. According to Paszkeicz, volunteers will be dispatched to the polling center at Santa Barbara High School, the Westside Community Center at 423 West Victoria Street, and the Isla Vista Community Center at 976 Embarcadero del Mar in Isla Vista. 

On the other side of the political equation, former county supervisor Mike Stoker — and longtime Republican Party activist and operative — was enlisted by the Trump reelection campaign to function as a legal representative in Pennsylvania. 

Mike Stoker | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Stoker — who served as West Coast regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump until forced out in an internal dispute — was enlisted by the Trump reelection campaign, he said, to make sure the applicable rules and regulations were observed when evaluating which ballots should be counted and which ones should not. 

“The rules vary from state to state,” Stoker said. “In Pennsylvania, for example, you have to put an envelope inside another envelope, and they all have to be signed just so.” 

He said poll watchers and observers from both sides would be stationed at the various polling places. Should they witness anything irregular, he said, it was their assignment to call it in to teams of legal representatives — like him — who will be armed with a cell phone to take such calls. They, in turn, will report any irregularities to the appropriate state and county election officials. 

“We want to make sure that all ballots that should be counted are,” he said. “And we want to make sure all ballots that should not be counted are not.”

Stoker said he was asked to make himself available until Saturday if need be. He and his wife, however, have plans to be in Hawai’i on Saturday.

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