An evening of upsets, upheaval and nail-biting started with a bang Tuesday in Bakersfield — a car vs. precinct crash that one might call votus interruptus.
In an anticlimactic rout, the 2018 midterm elections gave Congress back to the Democrats and turned would-be House speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield into the minority leader, but in Bakersfield there was plenty of drama.
It started hours before polls closed. Police routed prospective voters away from a polling station in northwest Bakersfield after a driver crashed a car into the side of William Bimat Elementary School and ran from the vehicle.
The school was serving as a poll site. It reopened after about two hours, but not before Kern County elections chief Karen Rhea notified the Secretary of State's office that the incident could potentially impact the vote count.
That wasn't the only Election Day weirdness on what was shaping up as record turnout day for a midterm.
Several voters reported long lines, but many viewed the increase in voter participation — which was also happening at the national level — as a positive sign.
Brandon Gamon, a Bakersfield College student who "just turned 18," voted at the Kern County Elections office in downtown Bakersfield.
"This is my first time voting," said the fresh-faced teen. "People say it doesn't matter, that my vote doesn't count. But if that was true, people wouldn't be here in the first place."
And people were there. Big time. The drive-thru lane set up each year on N Street, just off Truxtun Avenue, was busy all day as motorists rolled by, dropping their completed ballots into the hands of smiling poll workers.
And inside the building, a healthy crowd of locals stood in line before exercising their right to vote, a reflection of the early flood of mail-in ballots that had prompted Rhea to predict a record turnout in Kern County.
"This is the earliest I've seen people vote," Rhea said Monday. "There's been a steady line all day."
In the last midterm elections, held November 2014, just 39.2 percent of registered voters in Kern County thought it important enough to vote.
Rhea didn't get specific in predicting the record turnout, but it will be interesting to see how far Kern outpaces those disappointing 2014 numbers.
And that line remained steady on Election Day.
Pam Smith, a drug abuse counselor in Bakersfield, also voted at the downtown location Tuesday. She theorized that the presence of marijuana initiatives on the ballot is bringing out more young voters.
"They see this as an issue they can have an influence over," Smith said.
That may be a factor locally, but CBS's early exit poll suggested that President Donald Trump was a factor that significantly affected voting for the House of Representatives. One quarter of those casting a House ballot said they did so in part to support him. Four in ten said they cast their vote to oppose him. Only one-third said he played no role in their voting.
By 7:30 p.m. Democrats had locked up control of the House of Representatives, even as projections showed Republicans retaining control of the Senate.
But in local races at the state and national levels, there were few surprises. Incumbents held comfortable leads as the night wore on.