South Bay voters headed to the polls Tuesday after a long and often divisive campaign season that saw deep division between Silicon Valley’s two powerful political camps — business and labor — and widespread fallout from a racist campaign image from business lobby.
Like the consequential presidential election, stakes are high in the local races.
In San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo’s majority hangs in the balance as two progressive challengers fight to unseat a pair of councilmembers and shift City Hall’s power balance. South Bay voters will also send new surpassing to Sacramento in open Assembly and Senate races, in addition to a competitive supervisorial race.
Voters already have made their voices heard with more than half of Santa Clara County’s voters voting early, exceeding state and national turnout rates and shattering records.
Follow San José Spotlight’s LIVE BLOG all day for updates on results, analysis of the top races and more.
9:15 p.m. Alex Lee appears to be headed to Sacramento
Alex Lee is in position to become the first openly bisexual member of the California State Assembly.
The 25-year-old Democrat had 76.6% of the district’s 88,192 votes in early returns for Assembly District 25 to lead Republican Bob Brunton in the race for the open seat.
8:15 p.m. Dave Cortese scores lead over Ann Ravel
In the hotly contested Senate District 15 race, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese leads his opponent, attorney Ann Ravel, by 53.5% of the vote. Ravel trails with 46.4% of the vote.
The two candidates are competing to replace Sen. Jim Beall.
Cortese did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the early returns.
8:03 p.m. David Cohen, Dev Davis lead in San Jose City Council races
With 49% of the ballots counted, San Jose City Council candidate David Cohen is leading incumbent Councilmember Lan Diep in the race for District 4.
Cohen leads by 51.5% and Diep trails by 48.4%. There are just 483 votes between them.
In the District 6 council race, Councilmember Dev Davis holds a lead over challenger Jake Tonkel.
Davis earned 53.2% of the vote, with Tonkel netting 46.7% of the vote.
7:00 p.m. Lines still stretching in East San Jose
With an hour left until polls close in Santa Clara County, the line at the Mexican Heritage Plaza vote center in East San Jose continues to grow.
There are now about 50 people waiting in line to vote. Elections officials encouraged people to stay in line. Anyone in line by 8 p.m. will be permitted to vote, but no new voters will be allowed to line up after 8 p.m.
So far, more than 50,000 people have voted in person and early voting turnout has shattered records.
Waiting near the back of the line was James Avalos, 62, an operation supervisor for a security company. He said he hasn’t missed a presidential election since before George H.W. Bush’s election in 1988.
He waited an hour to vote tonight.
“We’re supposed to be one nation, under God, indivisible for liberty and justice for all. If we just look at the statement of being ‘indivisible,’ can we really say at this point this country is indivisible?” said Avalos, a San Jose resident. “We have 50 states. Are they united in any shape of form? No they’re not. So, we really have to try to find something that’s going to pull us together. I don’t know if Biden’s the answer, but I know Trump is not the answer.”
6:00 p.m. Young voters activated
Many young voters gathered at San Jose State’s vote center were in high school when President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
They said the events of this year pushed them to vote for a change.
“I’m not originally from San Jose, but it means a lot to be able to do this on my campus grounds,” said SJSU Sociology Senior Victoria Quiñones, who explained her college education has given her the knowledge and motivation to participate in the election.
After seeing Black Lives Matter protests in San Jose, she was fed up with the lack of change.
SJSU student Mikael Tyler said the protests also motivated him to vote for the first time.
“The Black Lives Matter movement, that’s what made me come out to vote and get my people out to vote,” he said.
Students from SJSU and Santa Clara University handed out hand sanitizer, water and snacks to people outside the vote center.
5:00 p.m. Lines growing in East San Jose
As Election Day wears on, lines are beginning to grow in East San Jose.
At the Mexican Heritage Plaza, lines have been getting longer since about 2:30 p.m. By 4:30 p.m., officials added more cones and voters began snaking around the historic property.
To ease the wait, volunteers offered voters free coffee, snacks and masks. A Trump blowup doll was propped up nearby.
The wait at the end of the line is about 40 minutes, but voters such as Melissa Trang are determined to wait.
The 22-year-old student from East San Jose said she’s nervous about the election’s presidential outcome. She also said it’s important for young people to get activated and go out to vote. “The future of our country is in the younger generation’s hands,” Trang said.
The vote center at the Mexican Heritage Plaza also experienced some minor issues, officials said.
Leslie Aytch, an election official lead from the ROV, said someone tore down the vote center’s signs before it opened and they had to call the elections office to get more Their printers also ran out of ink twice so a technician from the ROV came to replace it.
3:45 p.m. Low voter turnout in East San Jose sparks concern
Only 50% of ballots have been returned in Assembly District 27 — the heart of East San Jose — a lower than usual turnout rate, according to elections officials. The low turnout in a primarily Latino district has sparked concerns.
The city’s more affluent West Valley has seen a 61% ballot return rate so far and activists say this disparity is due to a lack of voter outreach.
“Traditional campaigns focus on the most frequent voters because there’s limited resources and time,” said Teresa Castellanos, representing Area 1 on the San Jose Unified School Board. “But we need to be able to focus on everyone and we need to focus on new voters, we need to focus on immigrant voters, we need to focus on voters of color, we need to focus on working class voters.”
Castellanos, who is running for reelection, said she went door to door to speak with East Side residents and many said no one has ever come to their door to campaign.
“That’s when I realized that there’s a whole electorate that’s not being targeted and not being encouraged,” she said. “It’s key that we target everyone so that everyone feels that they matter. And so that they feel their vote matters. Especially when life is hard.”
Maritza Maldonado, executive director of Amigos de Guadalupe, said she was “beyond shocked” by the low turnout rate.
The sluggish voter turnout in East San Jose comes as the county boasts record-breaking early voting rates, like much of the state and country.
“We’ve done a heck of an outreach like we’ve never done before,” Maldonado said. “We are on Facebook and Instagram trying to get the Latino vote out because it’s going to make all the difference in local politics… Let’s hope people are working and after hours it will pick up.”
Andres Quintero, who sits on the Alum Rock school board, said a lot of essential workers don’t have the time right now to vote.
“Folks are out there hustling,” said Quintero, a San Jose native. “It’s an unfortunate reality that not everybody has the luxury to sit down and take time to go and take care of business. But I think that folks eventually we’ll get around to it.”
Quintero said he doesn’t expect East San Jose voter turnout to compare to West Side turnout because, historically, the East Side has always had a lower voting rate.
2:00 p.m. Pandemic hasn’t slowed down in-person voting
In-person voting in Santa Clara County hasn’t been hampered by fears of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elections officials said they expected a large turnout at the polls, and prepared by bolstering safety measures including sanitation, social distancing and requirements for face coverings — both for voters and volunteers.
As of 2 p.m, ROV spokesman Ryan Aralar said 45,000 people have voted in person in Santa Clara County.
Cindy Ponciano took her 18-year-old son and daughter, Alexa and Devon, out to Levi’s Stadium to vote for the first time. She said she wasn’t nervous to be out voting during the pandemic.
“We can go out to restaurants and food shopping as long as we have our masks on,” Ponciano said. “As long as we’re careful, we’re fine. The pens here were sanitized and they had hand sanitizer. We’re 6 feet apart. I wasn’t concerned at all.”
Ponciano said she’s more worried about the political divide in this country. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “We’re part of the United States, so we should be proud we can vote, regardless of who is elected.”
12:30 p.m. Short lines at Levi’s Stadium
Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers, served a vote center for the first time Tuesday.
A small line was forming at the Santa Clara stadium by noon Election Day, though voters were ushered inside within minutes. Levi’s Stadium is one of 100 vote centers in Santa Clara County that opened Oct. 31. Officials there said things have been running smoothly.
Some voters said they specifically chose to come to the stadium to vote because they’re 49ers fans.
Electrician Anthony Dorsey, 44, a Santa Clara resident, said he appreciated the ease and safety of voting at Levi’s Stadium.
“With COVID, this could not have been a better experience,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey said he wanted to vote by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but made some mistakes on his ballot and needed a new one. “I messed up my ballot and had to come in person. I wanted to vote for the right person,” he added.
Voter turnout Tuesday and during the early voting period has shattered records in Santa Clara County, similar to other counties around the state.
On Tuesday morning, Registrar of Voters spokesman Ryan Aralar said the county has received more than 617,000 ballots at the ROV and more than 25,000 people have voted in person.
11 a.m. Downtown businesses preparing for tonight
Some downtown San Jose businesses have boarded up their shops in preparation for possible protests and civil unrest due to election results tonight.
Offices on S. 1st Street on Monday boarded up their windows with wooden panels. On the same street, Pizza Flora remains open but the owner there might close up tonight, an employee told San José Spotlight.
“I want to think positively about everything,” said Yvette Alcala, who works at the pizza restaurant.
San Jose police officials are also bolstering patrols this week.
9 a.m. No problems reported, lines are short
Elections officials at the Registrar of Voters office told San José Spotlight no problems have been reported so far, and lines are short at vote centers.
Officials are bracing for a larger turnout for in-person voting this year.
“So far we’ve been seeing a lot of great numbers. Throughout the election we’ve been seeing about two or three times the number of ballots received at the same time from 2016,” said ROV spokesman Ryan Aralar. “A few days ago it was 600,000 ballots received and around the same time in 2016 it was 300,000 — so we’re seeing double the numbers.”
One of the voters up early and ready to vote was Milpitas resident Dashawn Martin, 26.
Martin, who works in retail, said his grandfather who recently died told him it’s important to vote, “to make our voices heard.” He said it’s important to make a change especially as 2020 has been “very stressful.”
“We can progress and still have a say so he said. It’s about progress not perfection,” he added.
Anne Ekholm, 50, a researcher from San Jose, just became naturalized yesterday. This was her first election in the United States.
Being a first time voter, she both registered and voted at the ROV.
“I’m really excited to vote this year especially,” Ekholm said. “It’s important to vote because of employment and Covid. It hasn’t been handled well.”
7:30 a.m. Voter turnout strong
Early voter turnout and ballot returns in Santa Clara County continue to set records, officials said Tuesday.
As of this morning, 687,265 ballots were cast in Santa Clara County. That compares with 349,042 at the start of Election Day in the 2016 presidential general election.
The Nov. 2020 four-card ballot is the longest ever in Santa Clara County. Voters can make a selection in as many or as few contests as they wish. In addition to voting for the next president of the United States, voters will decide on congressional representation, state and local lawmakers and more than 30 state and local propositions and measures.
Polls close at 8 p.m. tonight. Anyone in line by 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote, officials said, but no additional people will be allowed to line up after 8 p.m.
Officials are taking safety measures to keep people safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing, requiring face coverings and frequent sanitation of polling booths, touch screens and other voting equipment.