Polls are open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 7 across the Inland Empire as voters weigh in on races and issues on the primary ballot, including several key contests in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
It’s an election with a twist for Riverside County voters: They are being greeted by new vote centers — 145 of them — that have replaced the approximately 600 smaller neighborhood precinct polling places that used to operate in schools, churches and neighbors’ garages.
With the vote centers came no assigned polling places, just a list of the 145 locations inside the Riverside County voter information people received in the mail.
In the past, David Valenzuela, 66, who voted at the La Sierra Senior Center in Riverside on Tuesday, said he relied on the stamp on the back of the guide showing his assigned voting place.
“This time it’s just blank,” he said.
In San Bernardino County, voters who did not return a ballot by mail are still being asked to vote at assigned precinct polling places.
In any event, voting seemed to be going relatively slowly Tuesday morning.
A volunteer at the Loma Linda Community Center said it had been slow there, with about a half-dozen people casting ballots shortly before noon.
Voting appeared to be going slowly in La Sierra as well, and in an empty storefront in a shopping center in Riverside’s Mission Grove area.
Riverside County’s move to vote centers follows the earlier lead of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Voters do not have to go to a center near their home; they can vote at any center in the county.
Along with the centers, Riverside County unveiled a livestream of vote counting around the middle of last week, said Yaoska Machado, a county spokesperson.
There was a glitch with the livestream over the weekend, she said, when a recorded video of earlier counting was being showed accidentally. Machado said she didn’t know the cause of that problem. She said the livestream was operating in real time on Election Day, as it was on Monday, June 6.
The centers also double as mail-ballot drop-off locations, said Yaoska Machada, a Riverside County spokesperson. She said there are also 87 other places that people and drop of vote-by-mail ballots.
Voters appeared split on whether the vote centers were a good idea.
“I think it’s great,” said Susana Hernandez, 81, who walked out of the La Sierra Senior Center in a red-and-white-and-blue blouse with stars that she makes a habit of wearing on Election Day.
The voting booths were spread out inside and there was plenty of privacy, she said.
Hernandez said she worries, however, about how the shift to vote centers will affect people no longer able to drive. The advantage of the neighborhood polling place, she said, was that there was usually one right down the street from most people.
Sharada Beck, 60, of Riverside called the vote centers “OK” but said she liked the neighborhood precinct model better.
“They’re kind of fun,” Beck said of the neighborhood polling places. “Neighbors get involved in the process.”
She recalls voting in a neighbor’s garage, “and sometimes we were in the dining room.”
“I think it also encourages people to vote,” Beck said.
Others said the vote centers encourage people to vote because one doesn’t need to vote in a particular place.
Staff writer Beau Yarbrough contributed to this report.