Quiet in-person voting this Sunday, but huge number of early voters in Oakland

An image of the parking lot in the Oakland Coliseum with the baseball stadium in the background.
Oakland Rooted sign above the Coliseum parking lot Accessible Voting Location. Photo by Katharine Davies Samway.

It was a beautiful day on Sunday, in the upper 70s, sunny, with a bright blue sky. Mid-afternoon, I drove into the Oakland Coliseum parking lot, a designated Accessible Voting Location. I expected to see hundreds of cars, like on a World Series game day or NBA finals game, lining up to drop off ballots or go inside to vote. Home of the former NBA champs, the Warriors, the parking lot was almost empty, with about 20 cars, many of them belonging to poll workers and police. I could see at least 12 poll workers, ready to direct traffic (there wasn’t any), ready to collect drive-in ballots (I saw one person drop off a ballot from a car), or ready to prepare people to go inside to vote (I didn’t see anyone doing this). 

As it turns out, a whopping 58 percent of Oakland’s registered voters have already turned in their ballots as of today, according to the county, which could be a part of the reason why the voting booths were so empty this past Sunday at the Coliseum. That’s 153,223 people in Oakland who have already returned their ballots. This is on trend with the average of the county, which is 62 percent of mail-in ballots returned.

I did get to talk briefly with Linda Zunas, who recommended going elsewhere to talk with voters. “If you want to go to City Hall or to the Convention Center, we sent the food trucks there,” Zunas said. “The Coliseum would not allow chefs for the polls on their premises because you have to be registered with the Coliseum Authority in order to serve food on the property. So, they sent them over to the City Hall and to the Convention Center, so I know a lot more people have been there because there’s more of a party atmosphere. We’re in a kind of isolated environment.” When I asked if they had many people inside, Zunas said, “You can see how many cars are in the parking lot!” 

So, I drove up Highway 880 and stopped off at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in downtown Oakland, near to Lake Merritt, which is an Accessible Voting Location. On the Fallon St. side of the imposing building constructed in the mid-1930s, there was a parallel line of voting booths under a white awning—all empty. Around the building, there were several Drop Boxes, which a few people were using, on foot and from their cars. Across the street and at the intersection of 12th and Oak Streets were Alameda County Voting booths.

A young woman wearing a mask stand in front of a building wearing an "I voted" sticker
Voter Rochelle Robertson outside the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in downtown Oakland. Robertson decided to vote early because she wanted to make sure her ballot would be counted. Photo by Katharine Davies Samway.

Rochelle Robertson got out of a parked car, carrying a ballot. Why did she bring her ballot to a drop box? She usually fills out the ballot in advance and hands it in on Election Day, but this year she wanted to get it in early. “I just wanted to make sure it gets in on time and it gets counted,” she said. Robertson is feeling a bit nervous about the election. “Just the outcome. How the country’s gonna respond either way. Just hoping that people do what they can. I think it’s been encouraging to see so many people get out and vote and do it early. So hoping that continues and people are responsible. At least that it’s fair. I think that, if anything, I’m more concerned that it might not be fair. That people are trying to discourage other people from voting. Through intimidation. And I just don’t think that that’s right. I’ll see what happens on Tuesday, or the weeks after,” she added.

Anne Zarnowiecki and her two sons, Javier and his younger brother Aluzio, came to drop off ballots. “We want to make sure our vote counted,” Zarnowiecki said. “And we wanted to make sure it’s in early and done correctly. And, I want them to see it.” Both boys are too young to vote, but they were very clear that they would vote in the future. Why? “Just to see change in our country. To do that, you have to vote to create change. Like racial inequity change, stuff like that, because I think we’re in a revolutionary time in our country,” 15-year old Javier said. “Every vote matters. Everybody should vote if we have the ability to,” his brother, Aluzio, said.

A mom and two children stand by a ballot box dropping off their ballot.
Voter Anne Zarnowiecki with sons, Javier and Aluzio, ready to use the ballot drop box outside the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in downtown Oakland. Zarnowiecki wanted to make sure her vote counted and she brought her two sons when casting her ballot because she wanted them to see voting in action. Photo by Katharine Davies Samway.

Bing Li was working for the Voter Registrar’s office and he spoke with me outside the courthouse. He already voted and dropped off his ballot in a drop box. “Before, I voted in person,” he said. He used the early voting option because it was easy and “I have faith that my ballot is gonna be counted,” he added.

With 58 percent of Oakland’s registered voters with ballots out as of Monday morning, let’s see how the turnout is in the next few days.

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If you are planning on voting in Oakland before or on Tuesday, Nov. 3, keep in mind the following:

  • Instead of regular polling places, Oakland has 26 Accessible Voting Locations.  
    • You can vote at any site in the county, but to find those in Oakland, click on this link and scroll down to Oakland: https://www.acgov.org/rovapps/maps/avl/
    • Between now and Election Day, these sites are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  On Election Day, they are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Instead of going to an Accessible Voting Location, you can drop off your ballot at a 24-Hour Ballot Drop Box.  There are 17 of them.  To find one near you, click on this link and scroll down to Oakland: https://www.acgov.org/rovapps/maps/ballotdropbox_map.htm
  • You can track your ballot, to make sure it’s been mailed, received, and counted, by going to: https://acvote.ballottrax.net/voter/
  •  If you haven’t registered to vote, you can register to vote and vote on Election Day.  Go to a Voting Center to do this.

About Katharine Davies Samway

Katharine Davies Samway grew up in England, but has lived in the U.S. for over 40 years, more than 30 of them in Oakland. She is a long-term educator—a teacher, a researcher, a teacher educator, a professor of education. She is deeply committed to public education and is the mother of three children who went through Oakland public schools.For almost all her adult life, she has worked with and on behalf of people from underrepresented groups, particularly immigrants, refugees, and migrants for whom English is not their native language. Although retired, she continues to do research because she learns so much from careful and in-depth observations (e.g., of children’s writing processes and how children interact) and interviews (e.g., of children, teachers, parents, and community members). She also loves to write (e.g., articles, poetry, stories for children) and is enjoying being a reporter. View all posts by Katharine Davies Samway →

One Comment

  1. Delia McGrath

    Great article, Katherine. I surely hope another 40% vote by tomorrow! Bringing Oakland’s final voter turnout to 98%. That would be something. Thanks for your research and writing for Oakland Voices.

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