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SLO County Clerk-Recorder’s Office invites public to observe ballot-counting in transparency effort

Benjamin Purper
Voters can drop off their ballots at the San Luis Obispo County Government Building

The San Luis Obispo Clerk-Recorder’s Office is inviting the public to observe ballot-counting ahead of next week’s gubernatorial recall election.

County election offices started sending out vote-by-mail ballots in August to all to all registered voters in the recall against Governor Gavin Newsom happening on Sept. 14.

County staff and temporary workers sort, count and process ballots at the County Government Building in Downtown San Luis Obispo.

Deputy Clerk-Recorder Helen Nolan told KCBX News that the public can watch how the ballot-counting process is done locally.

“If you would like to come and observe, give our office a call to make sure we have space for you or call us to make an appointment,” Nolan said. “But we are absolutely open to the public, and we’d love to have people come watch what we do and learn more about the process.”

Credit Benjamin Purper

Nolan said out of about 184,000 ballots sent out,60,000 have been checked in and received so far — and there are many more still being scanned and verified. But she said it’s hard to predict what total voter turnout will be based on initial numbers.

“This is such a different election than we had in November. In November we ended up with 88.35 percent voter turnout, which was the fourth-highest in the state of California for November. I don’t know what our turn-out is going to look like this time, but as of right now we have about 30%, 35% return,” Nolan said.

As for party breakdown, Nolan said 28,000 ballots have been returned from registered Democrats, 19,000 returned from registered Republicans and 10,000 returned from no party preference.

“That should not be construed as an indication of how people voted — it’s just a return by who’s registered with what party,” Nolan said.

Election day is Sept.14, but Nolan said anyone can come observe “up to and including Election Day, and even after too, because we’ll still be doing more processes back here.”

Those interested can call the office at (805) 781-5228 to set up a time. Masks are required to be worn in the building per the county mask mandate.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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