The number of registered voters in and across Contra Costa County fluctuates daily as new voters register, others move into our or out of the county, and some relocate down the street. The number of registered voters also rises sharply before an election. In 2016, there was a 9% increase in the number of registered voters between the June primary and the November general election.
With different concentrations of voters in different areas, our job is to make sure that a similar number of voters are assigned to each polling place where we can provide quality and timely service. Creating this balance starts with precincts.
What is a precinct? It is an area our office uses to group voters that vote on the same issues. We use precincts to staff polling places and to produce and count ballots. Most importantly, precincts are a reporting unit for election results.
When we draw precinct boundaries, we take into account geographic barriers and the length of time it takes to drive to the polls. A precinct can have a maximum of 1,000 Election Day voters, so we also examine communities with potential growth, such as new housing developments.
As of January 2018 there are 700 precincts in Contra Costa County, 91 of which are mandatory vote-by-mail precincts.
Choosing Polling Places
We have approximately 300 polling places, ranging from the more traditional, such as schools and community centers, to some unexpected locations, such as retail stores and hotels. Site selection is critical for both the poll worker and voter experience.
Selecting polling places begins months before each election and requires serious consideration. Every effort is made to locate a polling place that is accessible to all voters, somewhere centrally located, with adequate parking, and that is wheelchair accessible. Our office regularly conducts site visits to collect data on accessibility features which helps us analyze and select sites, as well as identify any temporary mitigation solutions that can make a polling place more accessible.