Dozens of trucks lined up outside the Alameda County Registrar of Voters (ROV) Tuesday night, carrying vote-by-mail ballots that had been dropped off at polling places rather than mailed in. The line of white vans and yellow Penske moving trucks snaked out of the ROV garage, up Fallon Street and around the corner stretching down a whole block of 13th Street.
ROV spokesman Guy Ashley said over 60 percent of Alameda County voters are registered to vote by mail, and the registrar’s office estimates that in addition to the 200,000 ballots cast by mail prior to election day, more than 100,000 people in the county dropped their vote-by-mail ballots off at their polling places on election day.
“A lot of those people ended up walking their vote by mail ballots to their polling places, for whatever reason. They’re worried that the postage isn’t going to work and they’re not going to get their vote in, or something,” Ashley said. “And so we have lots of them that are coming in.”
The ballots that were filled out at the polling places and cast on election day, Ashley said, don’t come in as paper ballots, but rather as memory sticks. At each polling place, the paper ballots are scanned into a machine and then the memory sticks that capture the results of those votes are delivered to the ROV’s office.
Inside the building, dozens of employees—Ashley estimates up to 100—were preparing for the vote-by-mail ballots to come in. On the basement floor, adjacent to the garage where the trucks drop the ballots off, ROV employees formed a human chain to pass wheeled baskets that will hold the votes. Ashley said the ROV will not even start counting the vote-by-mail ballots Tuesday tonight, and the workers are only getting them ready to be counted starting Wednesday. Tonight, the office will focus on the in-person votes cast on election day.
Ashley said despite the high volume of voters, everything ran smoothly at the county’s 820 polling places. “We were busy all day, but we didn’t have any unusual situations where we had to keep polling places open late,” he said. “So the polling places, while they were busy, weren’t crazy.”
In front of the registrar’s office, Oakland resident Kate Klingensmith stopped in the middle of a nighttime dog walk to marvel at the line of trucks full of ballots. She said she was shocked at the results of the national election, as early returns showed a tight race with a likely win for Republican Donald Trump.
“I’m worried about the future of our country. I think this election is really close, and what I’m seeing so far, to this moment in time—it is almost 9 p.m. Pacific—Trump seems to be in the lead, and I’m scared,” she said.
Trump doesn’t represent Klingensmith’s values, she said, and she worries what a Trump presidency would mean for minorities and immigrants in the country. “His xenophobia doesn’t seem to jive with my own beliefs and the beliefs of almost everybody I know,” she said. “I also do not support Hillary, but at the same time, I think that at least she has political experience and diplomatic experience. A Trump win tonight, to me, would mean that the United States is in a lot of trouble.”