SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Election week starts off in Pennsylvania for Carpinteria resident and former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Mike Stoker.
He is volunteering his time for the reelection campaign as an attorney that will be called into service when there is a dispute over a ballot. Pennsylvania is a battleground state and could decide the election.
When he got the call, Stoker said, "I would be more than happy to help."
At the Santa Barbara Airport prior to flying out over the weekend, he said, "Pennsylvania is a hot state. Everything from the reelect campaign is being orchestrated out of Pennsylvania."
Stoker has extensive professional experience in the elections process. "I was Deputy Secretary of State for Bill Jones for two years," said Stoker who said he worked directly with the elections staff. He also said he has worked with elections officials for years locally, including when he was a Santa Barbara County Supervisor in two different districts.
In each battleground state, the process has to be reviewed and implemented. For example, a poll worker needs to know "what has to be done before a ballot can be opened."
There are many eyes on the process.
"We've trained people that want to be an observer. If they see any irregularities, they contact a call center," said Stoker. He would be an attorney on the team to hear the issue and if it is verified, "there would be a lead attorney from Pennsylvania that will make the final decision. You would then call the election board."
Attorney teams are coming in for many reasons. "At the end of the day, the whole goal is to make sure no ballots that are haven't followed the process get integrated in with the other ballots," said Stoker. He says problem ballots get set aside for further inspection. That could include mismarked ballots, soiled ballots, and damaged ballots.
The goal "is to make sure that only ballots that comply with the process are counted," he said.
In Downtown Santa Barbara at a polling place, Carolina Sanchez cast her ballot and said, "everything was very smooth and I am very proud and happy to vote and no issues. Everyone was very helpful. "
Clara Hembree was right behind her and said she waited to go over all the ballot candidates and propositions and instead of mailing her ballot, brought it in for hand delivery. "At first I thought, I have a mail-in ballot it has to go ahead of time, but that is not the case - you can just drop it off." She didn't know what happens next with her ballot but would be tracking it with the new online system for voters to make sure their ballot was received.