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All the waiting and debating have led to this, as San Benito County voters head to the 20 polling locations to cast their ballots on local and state measures that have spawned mailers, TV ads and yard signs in increasing numbers since the June primary.

Polls close at 8 p.m. today and BenitoLink will post results as they become available this evening. This year, the election tally facility is in the Hall of Records behind the old county courthouse on Fifth and Monterey streets. The public is invited to attend and observe the process. “Our goal is to make sure the public feels the election process is as transparent as possible,” said Registrar of Voters Joe Paul Gonzalez. “We’re putting the facility — un-remodeled yet — to good use.

Gonzalez told the Board of Supervisors on election morning that he is now expecting a greater than 50 percent voter turnout, up from the 45 percent he anticipated just a few days ago. As of Monday night, 6,500 absentee ballots had been turned in. “That’s already 25 percent of our registered voters who have turned in ballots,” Gonzalez said.

The number of registered voters that have already cast their ballots by mail reflects an increasing trend locally and nationally. Those who still have yet to cast a ballot will decide on everything from the future of oil and gas exploration (the controversial Measure J), to eight local school board contests, to city council races in Hollister and San Juan Bautista. Incumbent county supervisor Jerry Muenzer is vying for the District 4 seat against Hollister City Councilman Victor Gomez and voters will cast their vote in races such as governor, secretary of state, attorney general, U.S. Congress, state senate and state assembly.

Three county measures, including Measure J, are on the ballot. Measure H would extend the vehicle abatement program by extending the $1 registration fee per vehicle and $2 per commercial vehicle fee for a 10-year period to fund the removal and disposal of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles. Measure I would amend county code to increase the hotel transient occupancy tax to 12 percent from 8 percent.