An hour before voting polls closed, the County Government Center in downtown San Luis Obispo was packed with young voters.
Some were registered in other counties or states but wanted to vote here. Some lost their ballots. Others never registered. Most of them took advantage of the state’s conditional registration process that allows would-be voters to submit provisional ballots — even if they missed the voter registration deadline — all the way up until the time the polls closed.
Even without those voters counted, this midterm election is expected to be the biggest in the history of the county; a record 172,500 voters were registered as of Oct. 22. And those last-minute voters could sway some races in SLO County.
Precinct worker Jayne Sacks said there was a steady flow of voters after 12:30 p.m. Then, around 7 p.m. a continuous flood of Cal Poly students entered the building. Around 7:30 p.m., about 50 people waited in line to vote and about 20 sat at tables and leaned against walls to study their ballots.
There were “a lot of provisional ballots,” Sacks said, “an awful lot.”
One of those was Aaron Lipari, 29, of San Luis Obispo who said he’s been scrambling, working too much and forgot where his ballot was sent. He works as a carpenter and a fisherman.
“I’m blown away by the amount of people and the age bracket,” Lipari said. “(I’m) stoked about the young people.”
Election results likely won’t be known for weeks, mostly because of those last-minute voters. Election officials have to process the provisional ballots and make sure the voter didn’t vote in another county before the ballot is counted. That takes time. So does processing the record number of vote-by-mail ballots sent out to SLO County voters (about 130,000).
Until the June 2018 primary, voters who missed the registration deadline would be turned away at the polls. That all changed with state legislation meant to made voting easier in California.