WATSONVILLE — A record 159,443 Santa Cruz County residents registered for the November election, with more than 111,000 vote-by-mail ballots issued, County Clerk Gail Pellerin said.
Pellerin said Tuesday night that elections workers had counted more than 22,000 mail-in ballots.
Election workers on Thursday were processing more than 55,000 ballots, a number that includes 45,350 mail-in ballots.
There were also 1,265 ballots submitted by people who registered to vote on the same day they cast their ballots.
An update is expected during the week of Nov. 12, and final elections results will be released on Dec. 6.
Carmen Hernandez has lived in Watsonville for 45 years, and became a U.S. citizen about one year ago. She voted for the first time on Tuesday, fulfilling a dream she said she has harbored for years.
Also a first-time voter, Jose Jimenez, 20, headed to his polling station to consider 11 state propositions, several elected leaders and a handful of local measures.
Both came to the top floor of the Watsonville Civic Plaza, joining hundreds of people who lined up in the polling station to drop off their ballot.
Choosing new leaders, Hernandez said, is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
“I’m happy, but a little nervous,” she said through a Spanish interpreter. “I want to choose people who will do the right thing for the community.”
Hernandez, whose husband relies on dialysis treatments, said she was also looking to have her voice heard on Proposition 8, which would affect how clinics that provide that service charge their patients.
Jimenez, who took nearly a half-hour to pore over his ballot, said he was eager for the opportunity.
“It’s exciting to know that you can make a difference,” he said.
Watsonville City Clerk Beatriz Vazquez Flores said that the polling station was unusually bustling for a midterm election.
“We’ve been very busy,” she said.
Many voters requested mail-in ballots, and several came in to drop them off.
In addition, dozens of people who missed the Oct. 22 deadline to register to vote did so on the same day they voted, thanks to a new California law that allows conditional ballots.
But those are a minority this year. A record 19.6 million people turned in their registration forms by the deadline, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
That makes up 78.1 percent of eligible Californians, the highest number for a midterm election since 1950, Padilla said.
“It has been nearly 70 years since we’ve seen a higher percentage of eligible citizens registered to vote for a midterm election,” Padilla said. “Registering to vote is just the first step in doing your civic duty — if you’re one of the over 19.6 million registered voters in California, make sure you cast your ballot by Election Day.”