Contra Costa Co. sees flurry of early ballots, falls short on expectations for Election Day voter turnout

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Voter turnout is expected to be high in this unusual election year, but how high in comparison to past presidential elections?

The vote count in Contra Costa County could be a microcosm for the rest of the Bay Area.

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There was a big drive in the East Bay to register more voters. In fact 100,000 more voters are now on the roster in Contra Costa County than four years ago, but it is the percent of voters who actually voted that gives you turn out numbers.

In Martinez, the day after the election, a ballot machine took pictures of signatures on ballots at warp speed - the first step in the process of counting a vote. There are ballots that were dropped off at the polls and those that arrived in the mail.

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On a whiteboard are tallies of the ballots collected from drop boxes across the county, where over 365,000 voters already have had their votes counted.

"Right now we still have 180,000 ballots, that's an estimate, in-house to process," Debi Cooper of the Contra Costa Registrar said.

Scott Konopasek, Contra Costa County Assistant Registrar said "I use the analogy of a fire hose. We're going to be slamming them through as fast as we can. After Friday it's really going to dry up. The supply is going to turn into a trickle."
And so far, turnout looks less than historic.

Konopasek said, "In 2008 we had our highest turnout ever in a presidential election. It was 86.7%. And all indications were we would hit that same target. In 2016 we had a 79% turn out."

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There was a tsunami of early mail-in and drop-off ballots. But election day turn out, officials say, was lower than expected with 40,000 at the polls, a quarter of what was expected.

Turnout is now projected to be on par with 2016.

"We have to wait till November 20 for vote-by-mail ballots that were mailed by election day," Cooper said.

By this Friday, Nov. 6, it's expected 99% of the ballots will be in and an updated ballot count will be issued. Officials say the same scenario may be repeated in other counties, with high numbers of voters turning out but a less than historic percent of registered voters Actually turning in a ballot.

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