Residents gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday to demand every vote be counted in the undecided presidential contest. Credit: Sarah Belle Lin

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Thursday 5 November 19:15

City Council and OUSD ranked-choice voting results: the latest update shows no significant changes

The latest vote tallies released Thursday, Nov. 5 at 4:52 p.m. for Oakland’s City Council and school board races have been run through the ranked-choice voting process by the registrar. These aren’t final results. There are still thousands of votes to count, but they show who’s leading and how the races might end up. (For races that probably won’t require a runoff you can see results here.)

Rebecca Kaplan still leads in the at-large race but about 63% of Sidebotham’s second place votes are going to Derreck Johnson, so this is a race to watch as more ballots are counted and the gap narrows.

In District 3, Carroll Fife’s lead has dropped 3 points in the latest tabulation. In this second run she now wins with just barely over 50% of the votes. But Gibson McElhaney isn’t picking up a lot of the second place votes in rounds two and three of the runoff.

D7 is going through four rounds of runoffs, but Treva Reid is winning with 61% of the vote when the dust settles.

In the District 1 school board contest, Sam Davis is still picking up a large number of Stacy Thomas’ votes after she’s eliminated, giving him a big lead over Austin Dannhaus.

In District 3, after four rounds of ranked-choice tabulations, VanCedric Williams is winning with 61% with Maiya Edgerly in second.

Mike Hutchinson still appears to be on track to prevail in OUSD’s District 5 race.

The District 7 OUSD board race is the closest contest in Oakland, but it appears Clifford Thompson is on track to win after four runoff rounds followed by Ben Tapscott.

Wednesday 4 November 17:56

As the presidential race tightened, hundreds rallied today in Oakland demanding a complete count

On Wednesday, as elections officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and other crucial battleground states continued to count ballots, a few hundred people rallied in Frank Ogawa Plaza to demand that every last vote be counted in order to “defend democracy.”

Credit: Sarah Belle Lin

West Oakland resident Praba Pilar told The Oaklandside she’d phone banked in Spanish to support Democratic candidates, but that her work isn’t done. “After this election, our work begins again and we have to commit to working twice as hard through the next four years,” she said. “The agenda is to get Trump and Mitch McConnell and the Republicans out of power so we can build our social and democratic movements, supporting Black Lives Matter and supporting the anti-police brutality work being done by young people in the movement.” Pilar said she’s also planning to draw on her knowledge of Indigenous food practices to create more  spaces in Oakland where food is shared with the community.

Credit: Sarah Belle Lin

Some children and adults who attended the rally created arts and crafts.

Credit: Sarah Belle Lin

Alex Morrison is an organizer for the Sunrise Movement Bay Area, one of the groups that planned today’s rally. “I’m not gonna lie and say that Biden was my first pick for president,” said Morrison, who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. “But he is someone we can push towards getting our goals.” Morrison specifically mentioned the ‘Build Back Better’ plan as one way a Biden-Harris administration could have a positive impact on climate change.

Credit: Sarah Belle Lin

Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, spoke at today’s rally.

Credit: Sarah Belle Lin

Ryan Fettes, a staff member of the labor union SEIU Local 1021, attended the rally with a drum. “Working in organized labor, a lot of it really just comes down to how we see one another and see ourselves in this struggle,” he said. Fettes said he is opposed to divisive politics that turn people inward and against one another. “I think that change won’t happen until we can really truly empathize with folks, and understand our needs are intricately tied to those around us.”

— Sarah Belle Lin


Wednesday 4 November 15:31

Ranked choice voting results: OUSD school board

As we noted in the previous post, the registrar is still counting votes, so these results aren’t final. However, they do give us a strong indication of who might win the district 1, 3, 5, and 7 school board races.

In all four districts, none of the candidates have reached the 50% threshold needed to win. Ranked choice tallies will be decisive where candidates hold tenuous leads.

With just three candidates in the District 1 race, third place finisher Stacy Thomas will have her votes redistributed to the other two candidates. Sam Davis, who was leading in the first round, received most of Stacy Thomas’s second-choice votes. This gives him a 61% lead over Austin Dannhaus.

In District 3, several rounds of ranked-choice tallies may be necessary to pick a winner. VanCedric Williams and Maiya Edgerly currently lead in the vote count and after four rounds which eliminate Maximo Santana, Mark Hurty, and Cherisse Gash, VanCedric Williams appears on track to win with 62%.

District 5 could also see votes from third-and fourth-place finishers Sheila Pope Lawrence and Jorge Lerma determining the outcome. After four rounds of tabulations, Hutchinson appears to be holding on to his lead over Leroy Gaines with 57% to 43%.

In the District 7 race, Clifford Thompson and Ben Tapscott are the frontrunners in a field of five candidates. As of Tuesday night’s vote count, Thompson had 30% of the vote while Tapscott had 28%, a margin of just a few hundred votes. The latest ranked-choice tally shows Thompson is likely to win with 52% to Tapscott’s 48%, but this race is very close and it could shift as more ballots are counted and run through ranked-choice tabulations.

Wednesday 4 November 13:25

City Council ranked-choice voting results: D3 and D7 will take more time, but Fife maintains her lead

The county registrar still has thousands of votes to count for Oakland’s City Council, school board, and other races, but we now have a pretty good picture of who is leading—and which races will need to be decided through ranked-choice voting. 

Before we show you these preliminary results, here’s a quick explainer on how ranked-choice voting works.

When filling out their ballots for Oakland races with more than two candidates, voters can mark their first choice, second choice, third choice, and so on. A candidate has to earn over 50% of the votes in a race to win. It’s very common for no candidate to cross the 50% line after all the initial votes are counted.

When that happens, the candidate who received the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed among the remaining candidates based on each voter’s second choice. If, after this round, there still isn’t a candidate with 50% of the vote, the process repeats until there is a winner.

In this year’s City Council at-large race, for example, it looks like Derreck Johnson will pick up most of Nancy Sidebotham’s second-choice votes after she’s eliminated, but that still may not be enough to overcome incumbent Rebecca Kaplan’s lead.

In District 3, Carroll Fife appears to be maintaining her early lead over incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney, but that contest might go through four rounds of elimination as Faye Taylor, Seneca Scott, and Alexus Taylor’s votes get redistributed.

District 7 could end up being another four-round fight, but it looks like Treva Reid, who currently leads there, will ultimately come out on top, trailed by Bob Jackson and Aaron Clay.

The City Council District 1 and 5 races likely won’t require ranked-choice runoffs, since Dan Kalb (D1) and Noel Gallo (D5) got more than 50 percent right out of the gate. 

Since there were only two candidates for city attorney, ranked-choice voting doesn’t come into play at all. Incumbent Barbara Parker has a commanding lead over Eli Ferran, and appears to have won that race.

We’ll post the first round of ranked-choice numbers for the school board races in a separate update soon.


Wednesday 4 November 00:51

In D3, Carroll Fife ahead of incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Late Tuesday night, Carroll Fife seemed positioned to unseat Lynette Gibson McElhaney in the District 3 City Council race. By 11 p.m Fife had 6,786 votes, or about 47%, and McElhaney trailed with 4,490, about 32%. Fife, an activist and nonprofit director who led the Moms 4 Housing campaign, said her lead in the race after early results is a win for grassroots organizers.

“Oftentimes, we’re portrayed as naive and not understanding governance,” Fife said during a press conference Tuesday night. “We see campaigns as not a silver bullet, but it is a manifestation, a material result of what organizing can create. I’m excited about these early results because I think it’s an indicator of when we fight, we win.”

City Council incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney with Antoine Towers, the co-chair of Oakland’s Violence Prevention Coalition at a gathering for McElhaney supporters in downtown Oakland on Tuesday night. Credit: Ashley McBride

McElhaney, who has served on the City Council since 2012, gathered with supporters at Kingston 11, a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Oakland on Tuesday evening. As she reflected over her eight years in office possibly coming to a close, McElhaney said she was at peace. 

“I believe I’ve served well,” she said. “The demands are huge in this district. Mad love to anybody who steps into public service, because it is demanding and it is exacting.”

McElhaney added that she was not conceding the race yet. The incumbent was also frustrated with the apparent failure of Proposition 16, which would restore affirmative action in schools and other public institutions and overturn Proposition 209, the 1996 ban on affirmative action.

— Ashley McBride


Wednesday 4 November 00:45

In bid to replace Hinton-Hodge on school board, SF teacher VanCedric Williams leads

In the District 3 school board race, San Francisco teacher VanCedric Williams led nonprofit leader Maiya Edgerly, but neither candidate was close to securing 50% of the vote by late Tuesday. 

With Tuesday night’s preliminary results, Williams won 4,793 votes, or 38%, and Edgerly received 3,333, or 26%.

Williams, who currently serves as treasurer of the United Educators of San Francisco teachers’ union, told The Oaklandside on Tuesday night that he attributed his lead to the on-the-ground efforts his campaign made to reach voters. 

“Over many conversations, community members just have not felt heard by the school district. They have not felt heard by the district director and really were just asking to be heard,” Williams said. After canvassing during the day at West Oakland Middle School, Williams said he spent the evening at home as results came in. 

The winner of the District 3 race, representing downtown and uptown Oakland, West Oakland, and Adam’s Point, will replace current school board director Jumoke Hinton-Hodge who is stepping down after 12 years on the board. 

Edgerly did not respond to requests for comment from The Oaklandside.  

— Ashley McBride


Wednesday 4 November 00:35

Incumbent Councilmember Gallo leading in District 5 race

Richard Santos Raya and Zoe Lopez-Meraz held a socially-distanced joint election party at a private residence in Fruitvale. The two candidates joined forces early on in their campaigns in hopes of using ranked-choice voting to unseat the District 5 incumbent, Noel Gallo. As of midnight, Gallo was in the lead with 4,113 votes (53%) compared to 2,372 (31%) for Santos Raya and 1,241 (16%) for Lopez-Meraz.

Both challengers acknowledged that the incumbent is “really entrenched in city politics,” said Lopez-Meraz. “Our work is just getting started.”

D5 candidates Richard Santos Raya and Zoe Lopez-Meraz at their joint election party in Fruitvale. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

“This campaign was about mass mobilization,” added Santos Raya. “People showed up for us and all I feel is gratitude, and a little bit of bliss. We were up against real circumstantial challenges,” he said, referring to the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and wildfires.

Lopez-Meraz will be at Frank Ogawa Plaza tomorrow from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. for a “Count Every Vote” mobilization. The event is being organized to demand that every vote be counted before a winner of the 2020 presidential election is declared.

Gallo did not respond to The Oaklandside’s request for a comment.

Also in D5, school board candidate Mike Hutchinson told The Oaklandside that he feels “cautiously optimistic.” Hutchinson is currently leading the pack of four candidates with 3,042 votes (41%). His next closest challenger, Leroy Roches Gaines, has 2,295 votes (31%).

—Azucena Rasilla


Wednesday 4 November 00:31

Measure QQ winning by large margin

Measure QQ, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections, is on its way to passing. As of midnight, over 67% of voters had voted in favor. 

Lukas Brekke Meisner of Oakland Kids First told The Oaklandside that the students who are part of the coalition that brought the measure to the ballot are excited. “This is their introduction to electoral power,” said Meisner. “We have two thirds of the votes, so we are calling it.”

Brekke Meisner is hopeful that the victory can be a path to start engaging more students in the democratic process. “The next move is to assemble a task force to see how to build the implementation of the measure in the next school board election in two years.”
Azucena Rasilla


Wednesday 4 November 00:29

Treva Reid leads in D7 City Council race

Treva Reid is feeling hopeful about her chances to fill the District 7 council position left vacant by her father Larry Reid. Early Wednesday morning she was leading the field of five candidates with over 3,307 votes (36%), while Bob Jackson trailed behind with 2,194 votes (24%).

Reid said she’ll wait for more results to roll in but she is optimistic. “For me personally, I just thank God for the journey we’ve been on so far.” 

Earlier in the evening around 8:00 p.m, Reid addressed her supporters via a virtual zoom party. Her team also hosted a private, socially distanced indoor gathering. “I thanked them for our values on how we wanted to show up and for learning to campaign in the midst of COVID.” 

Bob Jackson told us earlier that he would be hosting a socially distanced watch party at the Acts Full Gospel Church offices.

In the District 7 school board race, Clifford Thompson is narrowly leading with 2,497 votes (29%), while Ben Tapscott trails with 2,358 votes (28%). Tapscott told The Oaklandside earlier in the night that it was still too early to call this race. “We have a long way to go and we’re counting ballots,” he said. “I’m hoping to come out on top.” 

Thompson has not responded to our requests for comment.

—Ricky Rodas


Tuesday 3 November 23:41

Dan Kalb confident he’s looking at another four years on the City Council

City Councilmember Dan Kalb spoke to The Oaklandside around 10:30 p.m. after attending what he considered his virtual “victory party.” The candidate, who’s running for his third term representing District 1, is currently leading with over 10,600 votes (54%), trailed by Steph Walton, who has 6,034 votes (31%). 

Dan Kalb campaigned—for himself and Proposition 15—by Oakland Technical High School on Tuesday morning. Credit: courtesy Dan Kalb

“Mathematically anything could happen,” said Kalb, who nevertheless feels confident in his success given the small percentage of change in the race over the course of the evening. “I want to say thank you to both my opponents, who worked hard and had some decent ideas,” he said, referring to Walton and Tri Ngo. 

Kalb said he’s looking forward to expanding Oakland’s affordable housing stock and tenant protections during the upcoming term, but “the budget questions we have to deal with are not going to be fun.” He said he’s excited to work with two likely new additions to the dais: Carroll Fife and Treva Reid, who are currently leading in districts 3 and 7, respectively.

— Natalie Orenstein


Tuesday 3 November 23:25

Sam Davis leading in early returns for Oakland District 1 OUSD board

Sam Davis, who’s maintained a comfortable lead in the D1 school board race tonight, said he’s “feeling pretty great” about the results so far, though he knows the counts could potentially change.

The vote tally as of 11 p.m. has Davis leading with over 7,600 votes. Austin Dannhaus has just over 6,200 votes, and Stacy Thomas has about 3,100. Davis is shy of the 50% needed to win. If this pattern holds as more votes are counted, the race will shift to a ranked choice runoff between Davis and Dannhaus, with Thomas’ second choice votes split between them.

“This would be a victory for families and teachers,” said Davis. “We don’t need outside donations and billionaires infiltrating our elections.” Davis is referring to a record amount spent this year by independent expenditure committees on the school board races.

Davis said he’s also anxiously awaiting the outcome of Proposition 15, a tax reform measure that could dramatically impact the size of OUSD’s budget while he’s on the board. 

Davis spent the day at Oakland Technical High School, and the night with his family at home, where he was reassuring his son that the national election results are still inconclusive when The Oaklandside reached him by phone tonight.

— Natalie Orenstein


Tuesday 3 November 22:46

Only small, scattered gatherings downtown

Around 8 p.m., small groups of people had begun trickling into downtown. Helicopters flew overhead and police were present in the area, according to Oaklandside contributor Harvey Castro who is reporting from the scene.

The mood was mostly light, however, with some people dancing on the sidewalk next to a truck with a sound system provided by a group called “Joy to the Polls.”

A group calling themselves “Joy to the Polls” blasted music from the bed of a truck in downtown Oakland on election night. Credit: Harvey Castro

Oakland resident Kenzie Smith, 35, said he came downtown to feel the pulse of the city on election night. Smith is known for his role in the “BBQ Becky” incident at Lake Merritt as well as for coming to the aid of a local homeless man who was accosted by a runner at Lake Merritt. That event came to be known on the internet as the “Jogger Joe” incident. Smith also ran a campaign in 2018 for the District 2 City Council seat. He said he was endorsing council candidate Carol Fife for District 3 in this year’s election.

Kenzie Smith came downtown on election night to feel the vibe, accompanied by a hand puppet. Credit: Harvey Castro

Seventy-two-year-old Gloria Hamas (below, center) came out in hopes of collecting money so she could purchase something to eat. She said she’s hoping for a Biden victory because Trump isn’t doing anything for the people. She stood up from her wheelchair for a spell to dance and enjoy the music being provided Joy to the Polls, whose truck was parked at the corner of 15th Street and Broadway for about an hour.

Gloria Hamas, 72, was hoping to get some money for a bit to eat, but she took some time to dance with revelers in downtown Oakland on election night. Credit: Harvey Castro

One small group of activists who were also on the scene held a sign reading: “Both Parties Serve Capitalism.”

A group of activists hold a sign in downtown Oakland on election night. Credit: Harvey Castro

By 10:00 p.m. it appeared that the small crowds that were downtown had begun to dissipate.

— Photographs by Harvey Castro


Downtown is quiet, but some shopkeepers preparing for unrest

Oaklandside contributing photographer Harvey Castro is on the scene downtown. He says there’s a police presence, but the streets are quiet.

The streets of downtown Oakland were quiet at around 6:30 p.m. Credit: Harvey Castro

Ian Nelson, 44, who manages a storefront downtown, was boarding up the windows of the establishment just in case civil unrest breaks out this evening in response to the presidential election results. Nelson said the store has never been vandalized because the owners have always taken preemptive measures to protect the property.

Ian Nelson, 44, boarding up his storefront in downtown Oakland on election night, Nov. 3, 2020. Credit: Harvey Castro

— Photos by Harvey Castro

Tuesday 3 November 18:58

Dispatches from polling places around the Town:

Voters strolled slowly but steadily into Evergreen Baptist Church, on W. MacArthur Boulevard, all afternoon. A couple people campaigning for District 1 City Council candidates lingered on the corners, but many of the visitors had their eyes on national and state races. 

Deon Criddle used to drive for Uber, so the Oakland voter said he’s watching Proposition 22 closely. Credit: Natalie Orenstein

Deon Criddle used to drive for Uber, so he said he’s watching Prop 22 closely. The proposition would keep drivers classified as independent contractors, which Criddle says deprives them of the benefits and pay they deserve. Casting his ballot at the church felt like a “regular” voting experience, Criddle said, despite the backdrop of the pandemic.

Exit poller Cleveland Beasley says the reports from voters at Evergreen Baptist Church on West MacArthur are “completely lopsided.” By that, he means almost everyone says they checked the box for Joe Biden. Credit: Natalie Orenstein

Down the block, exit poller Cleveland Beasley said reports from the polling place had been “completely lopsided.” By that, he meant almost everyone said they checked the box for Joe Biden. Past elections he’s worked in Belmont, where he says the exit interviews were split between presidential candidates.

Ken Angelo with daughter Elodie, 7. Credit: Natalie Orenstein

One of those Biden supporters, 7-year-old Elodie, was getting her election jitters out on the swing set across the street at Mosswood Park. “I’m kind of scared and nervous,” she said. Her dad, Ken Angelo, had more mixed emotions: “There’s times when I’m anxious and times when I’m excited—it was pretty hard to focus on work today,” said Angelo, who’d already voted by mail.

Natalie Orenstein

Oakland Technical High School saw a constant influx of people voting in person and dropping off their ballots today. Some local candidates were also close by, chatting with passers-by. 

Jamal Davis filled out his ballot in person at Oakland Tech. He told The Oaklandside that the process was smooth. “There were less people voting than the past election,” he said, attributing the change to more voters mailing in their ballots due to the pandemic.

Scene from outside the polling place at Oakland Technical High School. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

Cousins Pharris Wheeler and Venus O’Manuel stopped by Oakland Tech to drop off their sealed ballots. Asked why she decided to come in person, Wheeler said she wanted to vote in person but changed her mind. O’Manuel told The Oaklandside she didn’t trust any other system of voting, so she came in person as well. “We did what we were required to do,” said O’Manuel. “The rest is up to God and the courts if it comes to that.”

Scene outside of the polling place at the Warriors practice facility this afternoon. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

Over at the Warriors practice facility at 10th Street and Clay, Douglas Edward, an election official, told The Oaklandside that while the past few days were “sparse” he has seen an uptick in numbers today. “It’s been a good number of people walking and driving to drop off their ballots.” 

Across town, poll workers at a voting site nestled in the redwoods of Joaquin Miller Park have seen a steady flow of voters all day. Poll worker Edgar Jackson told The Oaklandside that he estimates about 60 percent of today’s voters filled out their ballots in person, with 40 percent dropping off their sealed ballots. 

The polling place at Joaquin Miller park at dusk on Election Day. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

“Today has been a steady flow of people, and we haven’t had lines,” Jackson said.

Back in East Oakland at Ascend Elementary School in Fruitvale, poll worker Ariel Fortune told The Oaklandside that 338 people had stopped by to drop off their ballot as of 5:40 p.m., with 220 of those casting their vote in person. Fortune and other poll workers at the site have been manually keeping track of how many people have dropped off ballots. “We didn’t do it on Saturday and realized that we needed to keep track somehow,” Fortune said of writing the count on a cardboard box filled with supplies.

— Azucena Rasilla 


Tuesday 3 November 18:23

In East Oakland, many voters are motivated to remove Trump

This afternoon, outside the Eastmont Mall voting center in deep East Oakland, there was a rare sight on this Election Day: a line of people waiting to vote. At around 3 p.m. there were about 15 people in the line, with most reaching the polling place within 15 minutes.

Many of the voters we spoke to on their way out said they had a singular motive this year: getting Donald Trump out of office.

“I used to think my vote didn’t really count, but now I realize my vote, plus his, plus hers, altogether we add up,” said Stacey Lassiter-Kendricks. This was Lassiter-Kendricks’ second time ever voting. She said in previous elections she just didn’t feel that her vote carried much power.

In this election, it wasn’t Biden or Harris who motivated her to participate. She said it was the need to get rid of Trump.

Her daughter, Arrealle Lassiter-Kendricks, couldn’t vote this year because she’s 17-years-old, but she said she helped her mother understand all the propositions on the ballot, including Measure QQ, which if approved, will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in OUSD school board elections.

Another voter, Luberta Swain said she always votes, and that getting rid of Trump was just an extra reason to do it this year. “It’s him that I want out,” said Swain, who filled out her ballot at home but decided to walk it in and hand deliver it.

Just outside the mall’s doors stood a group of “election defenders” dressed in yellow t-shirts. They were handing out water and snacks to people waiting in line. They said their goal was to help everyone vote.

A man named Redd said he’s voted in every election since at least 2000. “My grandma told me to always vote,” he said. Among all the issues on this year’s ballot, he said he made sure to vote against Proposition 20, a state measure sponsored by law enforcement groups and would roll back some of California’s recent criminal justice reforms.

“I have a couple members locked in jail, so I voted on that one,” said Redd, who didn’t provide his last name. “They should be able to come back and get a job and have a chance.”

Redd, who is Black, added that lots of people he knows are voting this year because of “racial tension” that’s been stoked by Trump and others.

Similarly, Justin Marsh said racial justice is a reason he made sure to vote. He almost didn’t, however. “They made it harder this year,” he said about the shift from precinct voting to larger consolidated voting centers because of the pandemic. “I walked down to my normal place to vote earlier today and it was boarded up, so I called the registrar and they told me that I had to come all the way over here.”

Marsh lives in the nearby neighborhood of Millsmont, but the Eastmont Mall voting center is still a lot further away than his old polling place.

“Other people, that could possibly discourage them from voting,” he said.

Marsh said he wasn’t about to be discouraged. “As an African American man, this is most definitely the time to vote. Our civil liberties are at risk. Four more years of what we have now? I’d hate to see what happens.”

— Darwin BondGraham


Tuesday 3 November 17:30

Hope and despair on Election Day at Lake Merritt

The scene at Lake Merritt this afternoon looked a lot like it usually does: People from all walks of life were out, enjoying a cool, sunny day on the lake’s eastern shore. Friends lounged on the grass, parents played with their children by the lake’s edge, and others exercised. 

52-year-old Alton Dale was sitting in his walker, taking in the view. He wore a Golden State Warriors t-shirt with his “I voted” sticker proudly displayed. The Oakland native said that today was his first time voting. After casting his ballot, he decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing. “A lot of people don’t make it to 52,” said Dale. “I’m just taking in the day.” 

Dale said he voted for Joe Biden and that although he thinks Trump has done some things right, he believes Biden can offer more. He hopes that being out by the lake wearing his “I voted” sticker can inspire others. “I’m feeling hopeful. A lot of people are voting, so I think that gives us a good chance.” 

Yvette Aldama, 59, with her sign at Lake Merritt on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. Credit: Ricky Rodas

Several feet away, 59-year-old Yvette Aldama was sitting in a chair with a “Fuck Donald Trump” sign by her side. Aldama said she came to the lake at around 8:00 a.m so that she wouldn’t “sit in front of the TV all day.” Aldama said she’s been a voter since she turned 18. Her civic-mindedness, she said, is something she inherited from her mother. “My mother was on her deathbed and still voted,” she said.

As people passed by, Aldama waved hello and shouted, “Good morning!” Some asked to take pictures of her and her sign. One man on a bike stopped and told her, “Thank you! I was hoping to meet cool people like you today.” 

By allowing others to chat with her and vent, she feels like she’s provided a valuable service. “In the conversations I have, people are supportive, anxious, uncertain and traumatized,” Aldama said. When Trump was elected in 2016, she said felt powerless. “Every 23 minutes, something crazy was coming out of the White House. I was angry at white America.” 

Aldama said she isn’t feeling very hopeful about the outcome of this year’s presidential election, but the interactions she has with other Oaklanders make her feel better.

Shawn, a homeless resident, said the presidential elections haven’t been on his mind. He’s been more concerned with immediate needs like housing and getting quality schooling for his daughter. Credit: Ricky Rodas

Just across the street at Eastshore Park, an unsheltered resident, Shawn, was sitting at a table littered with various items he was selling. When asked how he was feeling about Election Day, Shawn said he’d forgotten about it. “I’ve been thinking more about COVID and the economic downturn. The presidency is one thing, the other problems are local and state issues,” he said. 

Shawn said his main concerns have to do with finding secure housing for himself, resuming his classes at community college, and securing a good education for his 14-year-old daughter who has ADHD. “I can’t really afford to pay for help,” he said.

—Ricky Rodas 


Tuesday 3 November 16:53

We caught up with the creator of “How Pete’s Voting!”—a popular voter guide in Oakland—to see how he’s spending Election Day

By mid-September, Pete Woiwode’s friends start expecting texts from the Oakland-based activist. 

“Hey, what do you know about this San Mateo tax measure?” he asks them. What about that school board candidate in Pittsburg? 

You might know 37-year-old Woiwode simply as “Pete”—from How Pete’s Voting, the spreadsheet he’s compiled almost every primary and general election since 2008, guiding Bay Area voters on everything from the presidency (“This just in: Joe Biden is better than Donald Trump”) to local ballot measures (“Let’s have young people vote for the people who decide on their schooling.”) 

Peter Woiwode, creator of the “How Pete’s Voting!” voter guide, holding a Yes on Prop 15 sign while conducting voter outreach in Oakland. Credit: courtesy Peter Woiwode

Originally from Michigan, Woiwode was not impressed to discover the California voter-initiative system, which makes our ballots pages long. “California has the most ridiculous expectation of its voters to figure out how tax levies work and what climate-change policies to enact,” he said. “I started to write down what I thought, and I shared it with my friends who didn’t know what to vote on. Folks seemed to like it, so I just kept doing it.” Its popularity “speaks to such a hunger people have to understand how to make their communities better.”

For the organizer, who works with local progressive groups like Oakland Rising, election season is usually about community, camaraderie, and hitting the ground to get out the vote. This year’s process has felt different in a lot of ways. Woiwode had to “hustle” to complete his guide by the time mail-in ballots went out, and he felt more isolated in the endeavor. But that isolation and the attention-consuming presidential race have made voter guides all the more useful for voters of all political persuasions this year. 

“I’ve been working on racial and economic issues for a decade, and Prop 15, Prop 22—these would be headlining affairs in any other election cycle,” said Woiwode. “One of the reasons for this guide is filling in gaps for folks who don’t have time” to research down-ballot items.  

Woiwode said he’s also tracking a couple Oakland City Council races closely, and he criticized the “massive amount of money coming in from corporations” to try to influence the outcomes of some of those elections. 

Despite the strangeness of this election cycle, Woiwode has found plenty of ways to keep busy. We chatted with him by phone around 1 p.m., by which point he’d already spent the morning making phone calls with Seed the Vote, door-knocking for City Council candidates Rebecca Kaplan and Carroll Fife, and checking up on the polls with Oakland Rising, to make sure voting was accessible and smooth. 

But Woiwode’s always employed a “vote and” strategy, he said: “I’m not doing this with the assumption that voting wins us what everybody needs. We need to show up tomorrow and push the people we just got elected.”

Natalie Orenstein


Tuesday 3 November 15:39

Getting out the vote in West Oakland

The Kapor Center Annex facility at 1901 Poplar St. is one of three voting sites in West Oakland. Residents can vote in person or drop off their completed ballot at the facility’s well-ventilated, roughly 2,000-square foot open space.

Charlese Banks, founder of The Town Experience, a grassroots marketing organization that works with minority-owned businesses and promotes Oakland as a tourist destination, was onsite to support the Kapor Center’s get-out-the-vote campaign, Smash the Vote, 100 Days of Action. The Town Experience teamed up with Red Bay Coffee to give away free drinks all throughout the day, until 8 p.m when the voting site will close.

Local artist and activist Kev Choice was also at the site earlier today to cast his ballot. He joined Banks in speaking with The Oaklandside and encouraged other community members to come out and vote. 

At midday, there were no lines at the polling place, and parking is available at the site. Poll workers have hand sanitizer, free masks, and gloves available for voters who wish to cast their vote in person.

— Azucena Rasilla


Tuesday 3 November 14:56

“The anxiety is high. We let them know, ‘We’ll figure it out, you’ll be okay.'”

At the Oakland YMCA on Broadway, a steady trickle of voters approached the blue downtown building on foot, most with mail-in ballots in hand to be greeted by Quinn Falkner-Kenny, and Lucinda B., two poll workers seated at the front of the building. 

As hesitant voters approached the table, Lucinda, who did not want to share her last name, greeted them with a smile: “Come on down! Here’s your golden star for voting,” she said, as she handed out stickers. Lucinda, who has volunteered as a poll worker for seven years, said this year she’s had to play a reassuring role for voters, whose worries are higher than ever due to rampant misinformation, news of voter suppression across the country, and high stakes races up and down the ballot.

“The anxiety is high. We let them know, ‘We’ll figure it out, you’ll be okay,’” she said.

Falkner-Kenny, a junior at Oakland Technical High School, decided to volunteer for the first time this year. “Since I can’t vote, poll working is my opportunity to do something,” she said. 

Today has been the busiest day at the downtown YMCA voting location since Saturday when she began volunteering, said Falkner-Kenny. Still, there was no line when The Oaklandside visited the polling place at midday on Tuesday and most voters were dropping off their completed ballots, not voting in person. 

Volunteers from World Central Kitchen handed out breakfast sandwiches and students from U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business provided water, gatorade, fruit, and snacks along the sidewalk.  

Ricky Johnson, who dropped off his ballot at the YMCA on Tuesday morning, said his biggest priority was the presidential race, followed by local measures related to raising taxes, like Measure Y. Johnson said he voted against Measure Y, a bond measure that would raise money for infrastructure projects in Oakland Unified School District, because he had heard about previous reports of bond mismanagement

Now that Election Day is here, Johnson said he’s looking forward to not receiving any more campaign texts or phone calls.

“That was very invasive. I understand that you’ve got to get the point across. But you’re flooding mailboxes, too,” said Johnson, who lives in District 3. 

— Ashley McBride


Tuesday 3 November 12:39

How do this year’s numbers of registered voters, and ballots returned so far, compare to previous years?

The county registrar mailed about 966,000 ballots to registered voters in Alameda County this year. As of this morning, voters have filled out and returned a whopping 620,000 of these ballots, either by mailing them back, dropping them into a ballot drop box, or handing them to poll workers. 

This year’s number of returned ballots already shatters previous records. In the 2016 presidential election, 444,988 voters returned ballots they got in the mail. So far this year, the number of returned ballots is just about 8,000 shy of the total number of all ballots cast—including in-person votes—in the 2008 election that resulted in Barack Obama’s historic win.

With only mailed ballots counted so far, the county already has a 64% turnout rate. The registrar has yet to count in-person ballots cast at voting centers, so turnout will grow later this evening.

Oakland voters have returned 62% of mailed ballots so far. Fitting with past patterns, Oakland’s City Council District 1 (North Oakland, Rockridge, Temescal) has seen the highest rate so far, with 72% of voters returning a mailed ballot. District 7 (deep East Oakland) has the lowest rate so far, at 50%.

Darwin BondGraham


Tuesday 3 November 11:11

County Registrar should release the first batch of results within one hour of polls closing

Historically, the first round of results has come in by about 8:30 p.m. on election night. We expect that to be true again this year.

The first batch of numbers will include the bulk of the mail-in ballots the county has received, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis said on Monday. County workers are scanning those in and will hit “tally” as soon as the polls close to see the results.

“We’re going to keep the scanners going as long as we possibly can,” he said, so that as many vote-by-mail ballots are included in the first set of stats.

After those numbers are released, Dupuis said, there will be more regular, frequent updates than there have been in prior years. In the past, hours sometimes passed between the first results and subsequent reports from election officials.

Dupuis said Alameda County has a new system, which it used for the first time in March, and plans to release new numbers hourly. Those updates will come from the Election Day ballots cast.

Dupuis said county workers will tally Election Day ballots into the early hours Wednesday and aim to get through all of them.

The next update won’t come until the end of the day Thursday, he said. It may include ballots people drop off at the polls on Election Day.

Alameda County ballots must be postmarked by Election Day but will continue to be counted for 17 days.

— Emilie Raguso


Monday 2 November 18:23

A musician, a librarian, an author, and a chef speak their minds on Election Day eve

Many understand that we may not have results for the presidential election and other high-profile races for days or longer, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t feeling anxious about Tuesday. The Oaklandside’s Azucena Rasilla reached out to several well-known Oakland residents for a gut check. Here’s what they told us.

“I feel a lot of energy around me and a lot of anxiety,” said Kev Choice, a local pianist, producer, and composer. “Of course around the presidential election, but I’ve also just been paying attention to a lot of the things that are closer to home, like the local elections—this is a very crucial election for Oakland. Important council seats are up for election, and it could be [five] new councilmembers.”

Choice said he’s been encouraging people to vote and get involved in the political process in other ways.

“There are a lot of people that are involved and engaged, which is good,” said Choice, adding that he’s “just hoping that things stay calm no matter what the result is, especially at the national level. We’re already seeing the signs of potential energies on either side that could lead to more civil unrest. People preparing to board up their businesses or restaurants. That is actually adding to the anxiety levels of people.”

Dorothy Lazard is the head librarian at the Oakland Public Library’s History Center. Like others, she’s anxious. “I feel like I’ve been standing on a manhole cover, and underneath that manhole cover are all of my anxieties and fears,” she said. “For me, it’s played out in rageful, tearful overreacting, excessive gardening, reaching out to friends I haven’t seen in a while, or don’t talk to regularly.”

Lazard, who has no shortage of history to draw on, said the past four years have been unique. “I couldn’t have perceived having a worse political and social time in my life. It’s evil, unconscionable, depraved. There are no words.”

She’s worried about the future, including the next few days. “They are already intimidating people at the polls, at Marin City, New York, New Jersey, and blocking traffic. It’s gonna be pretty bad.”

Aida Salazar, an award-winning author and activist who lives in Oakland, said she’s trying not to get too discouraged. “I’m trying to stay really positive about the outcome. I’ve talked to a lot of my family members about how they’re voting and trying to extend as much influence as possible over folks. I’m trying to persuade people about what’s at stake in this election, if Trump wins or Biden wins.”

Salazar said she’s been reading the politics website FiveThirtyEight, which includes lots of polling data and forecasts about possible election outcomes. “That’s kind of kept me a little bit hopeful,” she said. But she’s also hearing from friends who are wondering what to do if Trump manages to win a second term. “Some are talking about a general strike, also talking about hitting the streets. I think people are pretty clear that we’re dealing with a very corrupt government and the administration is going to do everything it can to keep its power.” 

Tu David Phu, a local chef who was a featured contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” just wants all Oaklanders to exercise their right to vote. “I’m a chef. I don’t know anything about legislation or policy,” said Phu. Nevertheless, he said that in order for our democracy to work, “everyone needs to participate. They need to voice their opinion. Regardless of who is the best person to run this country, you know, I always say this: Vote like your life depends on it because it does.”

— Azucena Rasilla


Monday 2 November 17:29

Some Oakland shop owners worry about civil unrest tomorrow. Others are helping customers fill out their ballots. (And some are doing both.)

Local business owners are as anxious as anyone about how the election will go. Will there be a peaceful party in the streets? Will the outcome lead to civil disturbance and property destruction?

Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said he has received numerous calls from shop owners asking if there’s any reason to worry, especially as results for the presidential election start rolling in. 

“I’ve been receiving phone calls and text messages about what they need to do in case of potential protests,” Chan said. “We don’t expect many problems, but most of the folks are so worried.”

In May and June, downtown Oakland saw massive protests in response to police violence. There was some property destruction, including looting and fires, and attacks by right-wing boogaloo extremists who massively escalated the violence.

Chan said Oakland police told him they’re not too concerned about the potential for disturbances, and that business owners probably don’t need to put plywood over windows. Even so, many shop owners are hardening their storefronts. Some are even considering closing early on Election Day. “If they need help boarding up, we will be able to do so,” Chan said. “In our community, we totally believe in and stand by peaceful protests, but because of the recent protests, some [business owners] had bad experiences.”

Bridget Cain, owner of Proper Fashions Boutique, which is located in the City Center, initially told The Oaklandside she wasn’t going to board up her shop. “Normally what happens is that I get a notification from the Oakland Police Department saying we should board up. As of today, I haven’t received an email about that concern,” Cain said.

About an hour later, Cain saw other businesses start to board up. “I think I’m going to board up my business tomorrow,” she told us.

In the past few weeks, Cain said she’s had customers come into her shop asking her for help filling out their ballots. “Because of how important this is, people are literally walking into my store to make sure they get their ballot correct,” she said.

Small businesses in North Oakland seem to be feeling less tense. Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner, executive director of the Temescal-Telegraph Business Improvement District, said businesses in her area will be operating as usual and that most shop owners have a positive outlook on the elections. “Our businesses here in Temescal are civic minded and encourage people to go out and vote,” Shifra said. 

— Ricky Rodas


Monday 2 November 12:43

In-person and virtual watch parties to join for commiseration or celebration

Wondering where you can watch election results come in on Tuesday? Need an outlet to channel your nervous energy while waiting for races to be called? Here’s an incomplete list of (socially distanced) in-person and virtual events happening tomorrow and Wednesday in Oakland. 

All Power to the People: A virtual gathering hosted by Just Cities and Black Tech for Black Lives, featuring Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, congresswoman Barbara Lee, Oakland city councilmember Nikki Fortunado Bas, and other local leaders. 

A Watch Party for Our Democracy: The West Oakland restaurant 7th West will be hosting a watch party on the restaurant’s back patio with election results streaming and food and drink specials.

Day of Deepening: The East Point Peace Academy, an Oakland organization that promotes nonviolence, will be hosting both a virtual event and an in-person gathering at Frank Ogawa Plaza on Tuesday to reflect and practice mindfulness on Election Day.

Socialism on the Ballot: The East Bay Democratic Socialists of America is hosting a virtual watch party to monitor national races and local Oakland elections. 

Taco Tuesday Election Watch Party: La Frontera Mexican Restaurant is combining Taco Tuesday with Election Day. Enjoy taco and drink specials while watching election returns Tuesday evening.

Count Every Vote: On Wednesday afternoon, a coalition of more than a dozen progressive Bay Area organizations are gathering in downtown Oakland at Frank Ogawa Plaza to relay updates on election results and organize future actions.

—Ashley McBride


Monday 2 November 10:48

Well over half a million Alameda County voters have already cast ballots

Turnout at some of the county’s 100 voting centers, including the 26 located in Oakland, was light over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t voting. Quite the opposite, actually.

For years now, most Alameda County voters have voted by mail. According to election officials, about 581,000 Alameda County voters have already returned their mail-in ballots, either through the postal service, by dropping them into one of the county’s official drop boxes, or with poll workers at a voting center. This means that about 60% of all registered voters in the county have already voted.

And out of Oakland’s roughly 262,000 registered voters, 153,000, or 58%, have already completed and returned their mail-in ballots to be counted.

Turnout in the 2018 midterms election was 66%, and for the 2016 presidential election it was 75%. It could be much higher this year by the time polls close on Tuesday and the last mail-in ballots are postmarked and on their way.

The county registrar’s data shows a big increase in the number of registered voters for this year’s election. The number of registered voters last peaked at 893,000, just after Trump was elected in 2016, and then dwindled by 42,000 until rising again and reaching 880,000 in 2018, just in time for the midterm elections that put the Democrats back in charge of the House of Representatives.

Since 2018, the number of registered voters in Alameda County has steadily increased. As of yesterday, there were 965,000 registered voters in the county. And although the deadline to register has passed, anyone who is eligible to vote can still go to a voting center and complete a provisional ballot and same-day voter registration.

— Darwin BondGraham


Saturday 31 October 14:18

The Oakland Coliseum and Arena and other accessible voting centers have opened

According to the county registrar of voters, approximately half of all voters have already mailed in their ballot or dropped it off at a drop box. But thousands more are expected to vote at the county’s 100 voting centers between now and Tuesday evening.

Alameda County’s biggest voting center, at the Oakland Coliseum and Arena, opened this morning at 9 a.m. A small but steady stream of voters entered from the 66th Avenue entrance and were directed by attendants through the parking lot. Most dropped off their completed ballots directly with the registrar, a process that took only a minute in most cases. A few people parked and walked into the Arena and voted in person.

“I felt like it was easy,” said Brandon Lomax, an East Oakland resident. Lomax chose to vote in person out of habit—and security concerns. “I just always vote this way, and because of hearing about lost mail.”

The Coliseum’s parking lot also offers a free COVID-19 test station this weekend.

Poll workers await voters outside the Oakland Arena on Oct. 31, 2020. Credit: Darwin BondGraham Credit: Darwin BondGraham

At the Allen Temple Baptist Church voting center at 85th Avenue and International Boulevard, poll workers greeted voters at the entrance to the parking lot. They told The Oaklandside it was a quiet morning, but they expected the number of voters to go up in the afternoon.

World Central Kitchen is handing out free hot meals at Allen Temple as part of its #ChefsForThePolls program. The food at Allen Temple was provided by Oakland’s Tacos Siñaloa. A representative of World Central Kitchen said they’ll hand out food until they run out today, and return tomorrow, Monday, and Election Day. The group is also handing out food at multiple other voting centers in Oakland.

Back near the Oakland Coliseum and Arena, opponents of Proposition 22 gathered at 11 a.m. for a protest on 66th Avenue. Proposition 22 is sponsored by companies that rely on gig workers, including Uber, Lyft, and Doordash. It would permanently classify these companies’ workers as independent contractors, making them ineligible for higher pay, benefits, and other protections afforded to employees. Lyft has also gotten involved in Oakland’s elections, spending several hundred thousand dollars in an attempt to unseat at-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and supporting her opponent, Derreck Johnson.

Hector Castellanos, who has driven for Uber and Lyft for about six years, was at the protest dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the movie “Ghostbusters.”

“We’re here to encourage the people to vote no on Prop. 22,” he said. “If this proposition passes, it’s going to be worse for drivers. Right now, we have to struggle to get food on the table.”

Lyft and other gig companies, which have spent over $200 million campaigning for Proposition 22, say a defeat at the polls will force them to cut jobs.

Over in Fruitvale, poll workers stood outside Ascend Elementary School, ready to help voters drop off their ballots or vote in person inside the school. Markings on the sidewalk around the perimeter of the building indicate 6-foot spacing for people to line up safely.

Options abound for voters at several voting centers this year. At Oakland High School, voters can drive up and either pull over right in front of a drop-off area where a poll worker can collect the ballot, walk-up, and hand-deliver it, or drive into the parking lot of the school located next to the main entrance on MacArthur Blvd, park, and walk inside to vote in person.

Rose, who declined to give her last name, said she lives in the Rose Garden area a few minutes away. She told The Oaklandside that she wanted to vote in person. “I wanted to be here and vote and not just mail my ballot,” she said. She added that voting was a “fabulous” experience.

At the downtown Oakland YMCA, the setup is geared less toward people arriving in cars, and more toward walk-up and bicycle transportation.

Shrim Bathey, who walked to this voting site along with her husband and children, told The Oaklandside she would like to see this more flexible model of voting sites continue moving forward.

“I love that California has so many options to be able to vote,” said Bathey. “I would support this model of voting if all the rules and guidelines are followed.” 

When asked why she decided to drop off her ballot rather than mail, she explained, “I know that the post office is backed up and this felt more secure—more like voting.”

—Azucena Rasilla and Darwin BondGraham

The Oaklandside is here to help you vote

Nuts and bolts: How, when, where to register and vote, and what you’ll be voting for

District coverage: D1 | D3 | D5 | D7

Oakland ballot measures: Y (school bond), RR (higher dumping and blight fines), QQ (youth school board vote), S1 (stronger Police Commission)

All about: Voting in person | Voting by mail | Using ballot drop boxes

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