Tag Archives: voter registration

Vote By Mail & Vote Early

All registered voters in California will soon receive a mail-in ballot even if they haven’t asked for one, and there will be plenty of options to register, re-register, vote by mail, vote in person or vote curbside up until Nov. 3rd, said Secretary of State Alex Padilla at a briefing with ethnic media.

“We have to start thinking of November 3rd as the last day of voting, not simply as ‘election day’,” Padilla noted.

California has 21 million registered voters, more than the population of every other state except Florida and Texas, and the largest number of voters anywhere.

Voting by mail has been growing in popularity, Padilla said. In the last statewide election – the March primary—up to 70% of registered voters voted by mail.

“That’s a great start, but in California 30% of voters is still a large number.  We want to make sure those who are not familiar with this way of voting are comfortable with it, and know they can still vote in person if they need or want to,” Padilla said.

Voters should vote by mail and vote early, Padilla urged, and they should take advantage of tools that improve the transparency and security of voting such as ballot tracking (Where’s My Ballot?) which tells them when their ballot has been sent, when it was received by the county, and when it was counted.

Voters can sign up for ballot tracking and receive notices via text, email or voice call, he added.

“This will be great for transparency, accountability and confidence, which have come under attack in recent weeks,” Padilla noted.  He called the timing of the Presidential elections in the midst of the pandemic and heightened political polarization “an unprecedented situation.”

Padilla encouraged voters to register, re-register if they need to change their voter file information or check their registration status by going online at  VoterStatus.sos.ca.gov.  If any of their information has changed, including their address, they can register or re-register at https://registertovote.ca.gov/.

Mail-in ballots will go to voters the first week of October (and mid-September for overseas voters).

“According to the law you need to postmark the ballot by Nov. 3, but we are extending the deadline for that ballot to arrive in county offices from three days to 17 days,” Padilla said.  “This is just in case there are delays by the postal service.”

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 19, but in 15 counties that participate in conditional voter registration, including San Francisco, people can complete a Voter Registration Application at their local Department of Elections on the day of the election and receive a provisional ballot which will be counted after it has been verified.

“There are several reasons why some people need to vote in person – such as accessibility, or to receive language assistance, or to replace a ballot that was lost, or if you made a mistake,” Padilla noted.

Voting in person will happen in bigger and safer locations than in the past,  such as the  Golden One Center in Sacramento, an NBA arena, the Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center in L.A., the Chase Center in San Francisco, and the Oakland Coliseum.

Counties are working to identify voting locations where authorities can guarantee that health precautions are followed, including social distancing, mandatory use of masks and availability of sanitizers.

As for the security of mail-in voting which President Trump has repeatedly questioned, Padilla pointed out that ballots are printed on paper that has specific watermarks, are printed by certified printers made in the USA only, use official envelopes   with barcodes that can be tracked, and require the voter’s signature on the outside of the envelope.

Referring to President Trump’s recent suggestion that voters in North Carolina vote by mail and then show up in person “to test if the first ballot was counted,” Padilla said that the state has a number of features to prevent any kind of “double voting.”

In California every ballot has a unique barcode and as a ballot comes in or the person votes, the record is “immediately updated.”  If someone sends a mail-in ballot and then presents themselves as the ballot box, they will be shown to have voted and be turned away, he said.

He also said any kind of “electioneering” or harassment at the polls is “illegal.” He encouraged anyone with questions, comments or complaints to call the SOS hotline at 1 800 345 VOTE or their local county registrar.

Padilla warned that for close races it will take weeks for counties to finish processing and auditing the results.  “If that’s the case, it’s not a time to panic but to be patient and confident,” Padilla said, adding that he is concerned that President Trump will claim victory “prematurely.”

“Results aren’t final until the work is done,” Padilla said.

The Road to November 3rd

Is California ready for Election2020? 

The spread of Covid 19 changed the rules for Californians heading to the polls in November. Vote by mail, historically a common practice for registered voters in California, has steadily grown in popularity, but the pandemic is forcing a dramatic surge in absentee voting. In the March primaries, almost 72% of ballots  were cast by mail even before the full impact of the Covid pandemic hit the state.

After pledging to switch to all-mail elections to protect Californians from coronavirus health risks with in-person voting, Gov. Gavin Newsom is readying the Golden State for an influx of mail-in voting.

In early May he ordered all counties to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter for the November election, noting that “No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote.”

The directive was immediately challenged by in court by conservative groups who argued this was “an unlawful attempt to supersede and replace California election law.” Newsom cleared that hurdle in June when he signed Assembly Bill 860  into law with bipartisan support from the State Assembly, effectively giving every Californian voter the option to vote safely from their home.

Yet, even as California moves ahead with its mail-out ballot plans, the process is under scrutiny from constituents concerned about voting safeguards, and under attack from President Trump who has claimed that mail-in voting “will lead to massive fraud and abuse.”

Alex Padilla, CA Secretary of State

However, voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the country, countered Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State and Chief Elections Officer, cautioning people from voting twice because “ its breaking state and federal law.”

At a national briefing on September 9 hosted by Ethnic Media Services, he explained how California was getting ready for Election Day.

“We want to make sure that elections are both accessible and secure. But given the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to make sure that the voting experience is one that is safe, and protects the health of both voters and election workers.”

California has countered misinformation and disinformation over the last four years to secure its voting infrastructure, voter databases, balloting systems, and to protect against cyber threats. “California leads the nation when it comes to security,” said Padilla.

The goal this election year is to ensure transparency and accountability in the electoral process and grow confidence in vote by mail, said Padilla, who has worked with state election officials in all 58 counties, voting rights advocates, and other stakeholders, to make sure the electoral process rolls out smoothly.

California has over 21 thousand registered voters and the largest and most diverse electorate, with voters from all “types and backgrounds, language preferences, and cultural experiences… so it’s our job to make sure that we’re communicating in the many formats, in the many ways that are respectful but also effective, for eligible voters to know what their options are,” stated Padilla.

Vote By Mail

Election officials want to ensure voter access and safety in the midst of the pandemic, so decades-long practices like vote by mail have guided their approach. New enhancements include sending every active registered voter a mail-in ballot by early October. Ballots will go out to citizens abroad by October 5, while military  voters will be sent ballots 45 days before the election.

California will count ballots postmarked by election day and received 17 days following the election. Voters can mail or deliver their ballots to a dropbox or polling station, and sign up to ‘Where’s My Ballot?’ to track their ballot and receive status alerts by SMS, email or voice.

To protect the integrity of vote by mail, California offers distinguishing features that guard against fake ballots – prepaid postage, election specific watermarks and unique barcodes on official envelopes, and scanning to ensure that each voter didn’t vote elsewhere. “Protocols in place to prevent against double voting,” said Padilla, are designed to make the system more trustworthy.

All ballots need to be signed and county officials will compare signatures on ballots to the ones on file to ensure the identity of the voter; ballots get rejected if signatures are mismatched or missing. Despite stringent security measures, the California Voter Foundation (CVF) reported that 1.7 percent of California vote-by-mail ballots get rejected on average, especially among young and newly registered voters. CVF’s president Kim Alexander noted that while vote by mail protects people during the coronavirus pandemic “it shifts responsibility for getting it right from poll workers to voters. Late return and envelope signatures missing or not sufficiently matching voters’ signatures on file are the leading reasons why some ballots are rejected.”

In an appeal to Padilla’s office, the ACLU and several other voter advocacy groups have suggested modifications to signature verification, arguing that “exact matches are not necessary to confirm a valid signature” and “similar characteristics between a signature being compared and any signature on file are sufficient to determine a signature is valid.”

In these instances, explained Padilla, the county is required to contact voters to give them the opportunity to fix the error so their votes can be counted.

In-person voting will be available to voters who may have accessibility issues, need language assistance, replacement ballots, curbside voting or who want to participate in same day registration. Voting locations will follow public health regulations for PPE, sanitation and social distancing, though voting venues have moved to larger arenas like the Dodgers Stadium, Chase Center and the Oakland Coliseum, which are better equipped for social distancing.

The next few weeks will focus on voter registration, voter access, educating the public about voting options and anticipated changes in the run up to November said Padilla. Eligible voters will be encouraged to register (the deadline is October 19), and all registered voters must verify their status or update their voter registration to be current, though same day registration is only available in person.

On the road to Election Day make a plan on how and when to vote, recommends Padilla, and vote early because every vote counts.

For more information go to Vote By Mail.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Image credit: Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash
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Unintentional “No Party Preference” Voters May Need To Re-Register With Preferred Part

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Voters who believe they mistakenly received a notice in the mail from the Registrar of Voters indicating their options for voting in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election as a “No Party Preference” voter may need to re-register in their party of choice. 

The Registrar of Voters’ Office began receiving numerous calls and emails in response to a postcard sent to voters registered as “No Party Preference,” or NPP. Some voters who received the postcard questioned whether it was authentic or sent in error because they did not recall registering as NPP. 

After reviewing the issue, the Registrar of Voters is confident that the postcard was sent to the correct voters but believes that some voters may have unknowingly had their party registration changed to No Party Preference as a result of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

The Registrar of Voters does not know how many voters may have had their party preference changed in this manner, but since the postcard was mailed, the office estimates it has been contacted by approximately 300 voters who may have been impacted. 

Voters who believe that they may be impacted are encouraged to re-register to vote to make sure that their records are updated before the March primary. “We want to assure our voters that the notice was genuine,” said Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey. “If they received this postcard, they need to take action to request a crossover ballot or re-register with their preferred party.” 

After the 2018 statewide rollout of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, some voters may have inadvertently had their party registration changed. This issue occurred if voters skipped the party preference question, which caused their party to default to No Party Preference, even if they had previously been registered with a qualified political party. As well, shortly following the launch of the live connection into the statewide voter registration database, the DMV discovered that they had data conversion issues with the transfer of information. Such registration updates can occur while completing or updating a driver’s license, ID card, or change of address transaction by mail or at the DMV. 

Board of Supervisors: Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian County Executive: Jeffrey V. Smith 

Voters wishing to check their registration status may do so online under the “Register to Vote” tab at www.sccvote.org. Re-registration may be completed online at registertovote.ca.gov. Regular registration for the March primary ends February 18, 2020. After that, voters may register or re- register at the Registrar of Voters’ Office or any Vote Center and cast a Conditional Voter Registration Provisional Ballot; however, the process is streamlined if registration occurs before the February 18 deadline. 

Nearly 300,000 Santa Clara County voters are registered as No Party Preference, and their primary election ballots do not include candidates for President. The postcards mailed last week, which are required by the California Elections Code, outlined what steps are needed to cast a crossover vote in the presidential contest for American Independent, Democratic, and Libertarian parties. The Green, Peace & Freedom, and Republican parties opted to not allow crossover voting. NPP voters who wish to cast a ballot in the presidential primary for any of those parties must re-register with that party. 

Early voting at the Registrar of Voters’ Office will begin on February 3; Vote Centers will open beginning February 22. These new Vote Centers are a central part of the new Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) being introduced to Santa Clara County voters in 2020. Under VCA, every voter receives a Vote by Mail ballot along with more days and more ways to cast their ballot at the Vote Centers. 

Completing the postcard or voting a crossover ballot does not change a voter’s registered party affiliation. Voters who complete this postcard will continue to be registered as No Party Preference and will have an opportunity to request a crossover ballot in each future presidential primary election. All requests for new ballots to be mailed must be received not later than February 25, 2020. 

For more information, contact the Registrar of Voters’ Office at (408) 299-VOTE (8683) or toll-free at (866) 430-VOTE (8683), or visit sccvote.org. Voters may also visit the California Secretary of State’s website for further information on NPP voting here

“NO PARTY PREFERENCE” VOTING FOR A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE While all voters can vote in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election, voting for a presidential candidate is dependent on political party registration status. 

If you are registered with a political party: 

You can vote for a candidate running for president in that party. 

These parties ALLOW a “No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

  • American Independent 
  • Democratic 
  • Libertarian 

These parties do NOT ALLOW a “No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

“No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

  • Green 
  • Green 
  • Peace & Freedom 

You were sent a postcard to select a party ballot. By filling out the postcard, you will receive your party preference ballot by mail for this election only and your registered party will not change. You can also select the party ballot at the Registrar of Voters’ Office or at any Vote Center in Santa Clara County. 

  • Republican 

If you want to participate in the Presidential Primary Election for these parties you must re-register in that party. Registration deadline is February 18, 2020. After that date, voters can still re-register but they will cast a Conditional Ballot that needs to be reviewed before it is counted. 

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