Local results for the 2020 election yielded some close contests, including San Benito County Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki’s win over Wayne Norton by 135 votes, and San Juan Bautista Councilman John Freeman’s reelection victory by only 15 votes.
Here is a breakdown of the voters deciding elections in San Benito County:
While voters 55 and older made a higher turnout in November, as they have historically, the county’s younger voters, age 18-44, make up a slightly larger part of the electorate.
According to the San Benito County Elections Office, of the 35,480 registered voters in San Benito County, 29,205 (82.3%) cast their vote on Nov. 3. Of those, 42.5% were 44 or younger, while voters over 55 accounted for 41%. Voters age 45-54 made up the last 16.4%.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 47,000 voting-age residents in San Benito County. However, 19.9% of the county’s 62,808 residents are foreign-born and might not be eligible to vote.
The state splits voters into seven age groups, the first being 18-24 and the others accounting for the next 10-year groups, ending with 75 and older. The 65-74 age group has had the highest turnout in elections in the county since 2012, ranging from 76.4% to 91.41%.
Data shows there was a surge of young voters, age 18-24, in November in both the number of voters and turnout percentage compared to the 2016 election. While four years ago that age group had a 61.57% turnout with 2,043 voters, November’s turnout increased to 69.7% with 3,222 residents casting their vote. The other age groups saw turnout increase by less than 2%.
The largest increase in voters was among the 35-44 group, which added 1,564 voters, followed by the 25-34 group with 1,364.
There was a sharp increase in voters between the 2016 and 2020 elections—an additional 6,682 were added to the rolls—compared to an increase of 3,376 voters in the four years between the 2012 to 2016 elections.
Data also shows local voters are more likely to participate in presidential elections than primaries and statewide elections. The 2018 general election recorded 20,579 county residents voting and the 2020 primary election had 17,324, compared to the nearly 30,000 ballots cast in the 2020 general election.
According to the San Benito County Elections Office, there are 17,093 registered Democrats and 9,458 registered Republicans in the county. Since 2012, the number of residents registering as Democrats has increased by 35.2%, or 4,450 voters, compared to a 20.5% increase, or 1,611 voters, registering as Republicans.
However, the category of voters who register with no party preference has grown by 48.8% over the same period, totalling 7,616.
The Democratic Party experienced two surges in voter registration between statewide election years and the presidential election years, gaining 2,318 from 2014 to 2016. The most recent surge was 3,446 voters from 2018 to 2020. The party lost 1,620 voters from 2012 to 2014.
Registered Republican voters in the county, as well as those without a party preference, also dropped in 2012-14 by 872 and 215, respectively. The Republican Party’s numbers fluctuate, though minimally, with a drop in voters after every presidential election. Between 2016 and 2018, there were 252 registered Republicans.
When ballots were received
Though county voters had the opportunity to cast their vote early by mailing their ballot or placing it in a drop box, the elections office received more ballots closer to election day, according to the data.
The elections office received 7,537 valid ballots in the last week of the election, of which 70% were received on election day. The week prior to that, the office received 6,941 ballots. In the first three weeks of the election, when early ballots could be sent starting Oct. 5, the office received 2,538, 4,686 and 4,769 ballots, respectively. The elections office received 16 ballots from members of the military before Oct. 5.
Skipping a vote
In three local races the margin of victory was smaller than the number of voters who declined to choose a candidate in that particular race. In Kosmicki’s 135-vote win over Norton, 344 voters submitted a ballot but did not vote in that race.
This also occurred in the Hollister City Council District 4 race which Tim Burns won against Julio Rodriguez by 265 votes. According to the data, 382 eligible voters skipped the race.
The closest local race in November was for the second seat of the San Juan Bautista City Council, which incumbent John Freeman won against resident Jackie Morris-Lopez by 15 votes. Scott Freels received the most votes with 531. Voters were asked to select two candidates; 629 either voted for only one candidate or skipped the race entirely.
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