SAN FRANCISCO — California will work closely with all its 58 counties to secure an accessible and safe election that ensures the protection of voters and election workers from the coronavirus, the state’s chief election officer vowed.
California Secretary of State and California’s Chief Election Officer Alex Padilla gave his assurance in a video press conference “Voting Access and Safety during the Pandemic: Is California ready?” hosted by the Ethnic Media Services led by Executive Director Sandy Close and moderated by journalist Pilar Marrrero.
Padilla says California has the largest and most diverse voting population at more than 21 million active registered voters with various languages and cultural backgrounds. He also says most of them will likely vote by mail.
“Vote-By-Mail (VBM) is the primary way people will vote as more than 70% of ballots cast have been VBM ballots. It is by far the safest and will be go out by first week of October and must be postmarked on or before the Election Day that can arrive three days after the election and still be counted,” Padilla informed. “We are extending that deadline to up to 17 days after elections just for this November elections in case there is delays for postal servicing.”
Padilla urges all registered voters to sign up at www.WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov, a statewide ballot tracking tool which sends automatic text message (SMS), email, or voice call notifications and confirmations about their ballots.
Tracking can also be accessed at www.vote.ca.gov, which is also a tool for voter registration confirmation, verification and revision among others. It now has more than 900,000 signed-up California voters.
Padilla hopes this tracking tool that boosts transparencywill help build trust and confidence in voting by mail, which has been under attack by the Trump administration.
VBM ballots have pre-paid first class postage, and ballots can be returned by mail or at a drop box at a polling location.
Padilla explains some of the security measures to ensure the integrity of VBM ballots, including watermarks unique to each election, the use of printers certified by the state, return envelopes with unique barcodes.
As for in-person voting, Padilla strongly urges voters to go to their precincts early to have enough time in case of unavoidable delays.
On the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic on in-person voting, Padilla extra sanitation methods and social distancing measures will be in place at all voting location. He advises voters and poll workers to wear masks, keep 2 arms’ length distance from another person, wash hands before and after entering the voting venue, use a hand sanitizers after touching doors or voting equipment, and bring a ballpoint pen to avoid touching high-contact surfaces.
Smaller former voting places like nursing facilities may no longer be feasible for social distancing and larger venues are being considered as in-person voting places. These include the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Dodgers Stadium and Staples Center in Los Angeles, Chase Center in San Francisco, and Oakland Coliseum.
As voters are allowed to vote only once, election workers will scan ballots to ensure voters didn’t vote elsewhere and that signatures are checked on every ballot before they are processed. Voting in person even after mailing a VBM ballot would invalidate the second ballot, which will not be counted.
“The road to November 3rd is geared towards accessibility, registration and building trust in our voting process. You cannot vote if you have not registered to begin with. There are various ways for one to register or update your registration by simply going to www.vote.ca.gov,” Padilla reminded. “All who have not registered or even those registered are encouraged to go to www.regsitertovote.ca.gov either to register or to verify their registration status and make sure that entries are up-to-date particularly on mailing address.”
Everyone is also encouraged to give their email addresses for continuous exchange of communication on election matters.
“We are working around the clock to counter misinformation and disinformation so voters have the most accurate election information. Democracy is our priority. Our goal is to make sure every eligible voter is ready to vote and trusts that their vote counts,” Padilla maintains.
Voters are also advised to make use of the following links according to their registration and voting needs:
www.VoterStatus.sos.ca.gov to verify voter registration and to register. Voters are urged to check their registration as soon as possible so their ballot goes to the correct address; and
www.WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to track their ballot but voter needs to sign up to avail of this tool.
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