MERCED — With Tuesday's general election rapidly approaching, the Merced County registrar of voters' office is making final preparations for what should be an eventful night.
Workers will be counting thousands of ballots, transporting equipment and tallying results throughout the night as candidates and voters anxiously await the outcomes.
Merced County Registrar of Voters Kent Christensen said after the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, results will start showing up on the Merced County Web site about five to 10 minutes later. The first results that are posted will be absentee ballots. The numbers will be updated throughout the night as precinct results start coming in.
However, the certified results won't be available for several days after the election, since absentee ballots turned in at the polls and provisional ballots will still need to be tallied.
While election night is a busy one for the county, voting numbers are still low for the area. Only 38 percent of Merced County residents are registered to vote and fewer actually make it to the polls, often resulting in a turnout around 25 percent.
Though it's difficult to explain the reasons behind the local voter apathy, Christensen said he plans to keep up voter registration drives in the county to improve the numbers. He's also been pleased by the increase of voters coming from the new online registration process.
"I think it really boils down to interest in the election, so a presidential election tends to bring a few more voters out just because there's a lot more interest in it than say maybe a proposition or a special election or a minor district election," Christensen said.
It's important for voters to double-check their polling locations, since some have changed because of redistricting in the county, Christensen noted. There are three satellite polling places where anyone from Merced County can go to vote regardless of their district. Those sites include the Merced County Administration Building at 2222 M St., the Merced Mall and the University of California at Merced.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Polling places are listed on the Merced County Web site under the "registrar of voters" tab.
Those who have absentee ballots they'd like counted can turn them into any polling place in Merced County on Election Day, Christensen said. So far, a little more than 17,000 absentee ballots have been returned out of about 36,000 that were sent out.
Christensen said he hopes Tuesday's election brings about lots of participation.
"People should support their freedom and democracy and vote," he said.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.