Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 was National Early Voting Day. Santa Cruz County set up voting stations in Patagonia from 9a.m. – noon, and at the Sonoita Library from 2 – 5:00 pm. Candidates Liliana Ortega, (Superior Court Judge), Donna Federici, (Supervisor District 3), and Kat Crockett and Patty Scarboro (Sonoita Elementary School Board District) were campaigning on site at both locations.
At 3:30p.m., the county ran out of ballots for Sonoita’s largest precinct, 15.3. There are 865 registered voters in that precinct, and while some are early ballot or election day voters, the county sent only 14 ballots which in an election of great public interest was a gross underestimate. County workers Patty Garcia and Lupita Moreno, neither trained poll workers, did not notice the shortage until there were no more ballots left. They then contacted Suzie Sainz, the County Recorder. Sainz arrived with additional ballots at 5:20p.m., 20 minutes after the scheduled closing time.
Sainz said she is responsible for underestimating the number of ballots needed for Sonoita.
Voters were told that additional ballots were on the way. The county said two voters waited for the ballots to arrive and one said he would vote in November. It was unclear how many people were told by others that there were no more ballots and either left or did not participate. A final total of 15 residents of precinct 15.3 voted in person and 40 early ballots were dropped off.
According to Federici, “The odds of Sonoita being the only precinct to run out of ballots is astounding considering the East County already feels disenfranchised. But, in a year where early voting or mail-in voting is in the news cycle every 15 minutes and one can’t open an iPhone or android without getting a text message reminder to vote, sending 14 ballots to a precinct is either malfeasance or lunacy. Either way, it is a black mark on the Sainz administration.”
In summary, voter suppression, whether intentional or not, cannot be tolerated and the county must put measures in place to prevent this from ever happening again.