Costa County

Voters in Martinez ‘Furious' at Size of Polling Place, Take to Streets with Ballots

Martinez voters said they were frustrated and angry with Contra Costa County election officials for the lack of organization and space at a central polling place on Tuesday. 

The precinct, located at county offices on 30 Muir Road, was confined to the small atrium of the building and was overflowing by about 11 a.m. Dozens of voters took to the sidewalk and nearby stairs to fill out their ballots, using their laps and the ground as a surface for writing. 

Kathy Hansen, who already was nonplussed with her choices on the ballot, was less enthused than ever after arriving to cast her ballot. She said she had no idea what was going on, or why so many people had taken their ballots outside. 

 "It's hard for older people to get in and out of there," she said. "It was a little disturbing not to have a private booth to vote in." She stressed that she knew it wasn't the poll workers fault, and said they were moving as fast as possible. 

The polling place did have several private booths, including one for handicapped voters, but all were cramped and offered little privacy. During the June primary, many of the same voters were sent to offices at Roman Way, a far more spacious venue. 

Pete Carpenter, who was overseeing the 30 Muir Road polling place, told NBC Bay Area that it was not his decision to move the location. The Contra Costa County Elections Office did not immediately return a request for comment. 

"It wasn't my choice," Carpenter, who has been an elections volunteer for more than a decade, said. "I have to go along with it, even if it may be ridiculous." He noted that voters could have waited in the short line to use the booths, and that it was "absolutely" a bigger turnout that he'd seen in previous years. 

That explanation did little to assuage the worries of voter Barbara Brandt.

"There are only five ballot booths! Five!," she said. "I am furious. It's a privacy issue for me. Anybody can walk by me and see who I'm voting for."

Voting indoors, she said, made little difference, since the privacy barriers on the voting booths were ineffective.

"It's no different in there, because of the way the booths are, everybody can see since they are all right behind you." 

Despite her grievances, Brandt was ultimately able to cast her vote and praised the volunteers for doing what they could. 

"It's not the volunteers fault," she said. "The girls in there are doing everything they can and are doing a very good job." 

Gillian Edevane covers Contra Costa County for NBC Bay Area. Contact her at

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