Nevada County vote centers largely problem-free Tuesday
With five hours to go until the polls closed, Natalie Adona — the Nevada County assistant clerk-recorder/registrar of voters — figured things were going well.
Adona said she hadn’t received many phone calls that day with vote center-related issues.
The equipment issues that did crop up, she said, were “normal” and primarily related to printers, which sometimes shut off unexpectedly and need to have their settings readjusted as vote centers open in the morning.
“But once they’re up and running, they’re up and running,” she said.
Electioneering, on the other hand, prohibited within 100 feet of vote centers and ballot drop-off boxes, has been a more difficult issue for Nevada County vote centers this year than in past elections, according to Adona.
“It’s been a little rougher on poll workers this year because people are more polarized,” she said, adding that most voters have complied with the rules, but that those who did not were pushing back more insistently against staff requests.
By Tuesday afternoon, according to Adona, 51,994 vote-by-mail ballots had been returned — approximately 70% of the county’s registered voters.
In western Nevada County, vote centers opened from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, Sierra College, Bear River High School, Gold Miners Inn, and Eric Rood Administrative Center.
Voters were ready to go at opening time at the Gold Miners Inn vote center.
“I probably had 20 voters that we processed in the first 20 minutes,” said vote center manager Harley Andes.
The center had quieted down somewhat within a couple of hours.
“Traffic has been steady, but more mellow than we would ordinarily anticipate,” said Andes, adding that the center had seen a large number of new registrations over its four operating days.
PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING
Around 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nevada County Fairgrounds vote center manager Ryan Gruver said things were going “really smoothly,” with around 100 people having voted at that point.
“It was great having the first three days of early voting as practice, because we got to learn the computer system and work through the weird situations that come up,” said Gruver. One issue involved a few residents of neighboring counties showing up to vote, erroneously believing they could vote in Nevada County.
“We’ve had really great compliance with masks and everything else… I’d say we’ve had 90 to 95% compliance with people wearing masks and not even having to be asked,” he said, adding that other precautions such as a spacious building and “I Voted” pens, which voters could take with them, were also contributing to COVID-19 safety at the center.
“The process is pretty resolute,” said Sierra College campus vote center manager Chris Holmgren, explaining around five hours into election day that the few equipment-related snags that morning had been swiftly addressed by county staff. He said some voters told him they had specifically gone to the vote center rather than some of the drop-off boxes located in local businesses because they felt the center was “a safer bet.”
On his motivation to take the position, Holmgren, a first-time election worker, said, “It had been a long time since I had voted in person, but I still remembered the faces of the people that were there for me years ago, and I figured I would step up to the plate and be there for them.”
Shawn Coats, a volunteer at the Sierra College center, said she was glad to be a part of an election she felt was “history being made.”
“I have a lot of grand-daughters and daughters, and it’s important for them to see that it can be done and your voice does count,” said Coats. “And I enjoy it, so it’s a double pleasure for me.”
She said the county had provided reliable support throughout the center’s time open, and that voters were “patient and understanding”, something she said was different than she had imagined this election day might be.
“The biggest snag has been with the electioneering law,” said Eric Rood Administrative Center vote center manager Susan Vanson. “That’s always hard, to ask someone to take off their hat, or turn their shirt inside-out, or cover a button … But, people are generally so happy to vote, and we haven’t had lines so they’re so happy there’s no line.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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