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In 2009, one year away from being able to vote, I worked the polls for the presidential election. I had no understanding of the election process but I was part of the excitement and I felt I had a hand in getting Barack Obama elected. 

March 3rd will be the last day to vote in the California Primaries but did you know that you could have voted starting February 3rd? Why should you care?

Election worker, Mary Kelly, working the E-Poll Book

Much like sports, in order to be engaged, you have to feel invested in the players, teams, rules, and locations of games. While I’ve never been interested in sports, Obama winning the presidency felt like a touchdown to me. A moment of realization – I care when I’m informed. Maybe I can get into sports. 

So let me help you feel like the Jimmy Garoppolo of the upcoming primary elections and acquaint you with how California has worked to ensure that anyone that wishes to be, can exercise their right in the democratic process. 

There have been no changes to the election process since 2003 and it has taken more than a decade to enforce voters’ rights. This is the first election using the Voter’s Choice Act model and California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, has done everything in his power to advocate for voters in disenfranchised communities. Santa Clara County is forward thinking and has adopted measures for all voices to be represented. 

Starting from before the election season

  • 16 and 17 year olds can pre-register to vote.
  • anyone that applies for a driver’s licence will be automatically registered to vote (Motor Voter Law).
  • everyone registered to vote receives a vote-by-mail ballot in a choice of over 25 languages. 

These changes are significant for the following reasons

  • Navigating an election process, that is riddled in legal/political jargon, creates hurdles.
  • Automatic voter registration and multilingual vote-by-mail ballots remove barriers. 
  • For our multiethnic community, you can choose from an array of languages to feel educated and comfortable about the voting process. 
  • For those that work jobs with no time off or pay compensation, they can cast their ballot without leaving their home or job (postage stamp is already paid). 

These steps help leading up to the last day of the elections but even more has been done for the last day of the election – for my procrastinators and indecisive voters here is your chance! 

On March 3rd:

  • There will be over 110 Vote Centers in Santa Clara County.
  • There will be diverse, second language speaking election workers at all the vote centers.
  • You can drop or fill out a ballot at any location in the county. 
  • Checking-in with the new E-Poll Book provides you with the option of choosing your party and language preference (Hindi, Khmer, Spanish, English, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese) on the spot.
  • Your district specific ballot can be printed out at any county center. 
  • Conditional and Provisional ballots will be available for non registered voters and voters from other counties.
  • In order to vote in the Presidential Primaries, you must pick a party. You may choose the Nonpartisan crossover option where you will be given the candidates from the Democratic, Republican, and American Independent ballot. 
  • There will be electronic ballot marking devices with adaptive disability equipment.
  • You will be submitting the ballot through a machine that instantly identifies if there’s an error that needs correction (for example, if someone overvotes for three candidates in a two-candidate contest).

Our 2018 midterm elections had the highest voter turnout for a midterm election at around 116 million people – only slightly more than the number of people watching Super Bowl XLIX with 41.8% of registered voters showing interest. Let’s take charge and increase the voter turnout this year – we have no excuse! For more information about voting in California, check here.

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

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