Voters encouraged to vote early to avoid crowds during COVID-19

Everything you need to know about voting in the 2020 presidential election

The+Nov.+3+election+will+continue+as+planned+despite+concerns+over+the+COVID-19+pandemic+affecting+the+world+in+2020.+Millions+are+expected+to+turn+out+to+the+polls+the+day+of+the+election%2C+though+masks+will+be+required+through+California+and+many+places+nationwide+in+order+to+vote+in+person.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Glen+Carrie%29

The Nov. 3 election will continue as planned despite concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world in 2020. Millions are expected to turn out to the polls the day of the election, though masks will be required through California and many places nationwide in order to vote in person. (Photo courtesy of Glen Carrie)

Irvis Orozco, Staff Writer

The ballot for the 2020 election will address many hot topic issues, including healthcare, immigration, climate change, education and others. Your vote will determine the results of how our local communities move forward. 

Courtney Bailey-Kanelos, of the Sacramento County’s Voters Registrar’s office, talked to the Current about how people can register to vote in the upcoming 2020 election and how Covid-19 will affect this. 

 

How are people able to register to vote?

“We are asking that voters, if they want to receive their ballot in the mail, that they do need to register to vote by October 19th. However if they miss the deadline they can still go to any vote center that is open in the county and are able to complete what we call a conditional voter registration which means it has to come back to our office first before we count the ballot,” Bailey-Kanelos said. 

Voters can still register to vote online, at Register To Vote. Voters can also go to the Sacramento County website to register to vote and get information on the 84 different voting locations available county-wide. 

 

When is the deadline to register to vote? 

“As long as you are in line by 8 p.m. on election day you will be able to register and vote at a vote center,” Bailey-Kanelos said. 

Voters can register as late as the day of the election. 

 

How is Covid-19 going to affect voting?

“Because we are limiting the number of people that will be allowed into voting centers at one time, we are expecting lines on election day,” Bailey-Kanelos said. “So we are encouraging voters to get out and vote early.”

With more than 850,000 registered voters in Sacramento county, large crowds are a concern for safety amid COVID-19. Sacramento county is preparing by installing the same amount of in-vote centers as in past elections, according to Bailey-Kanelos. 

Extra precautions have been taken to provide enough space for crowds to social distance. 

Voting at voting centers will still continue this election cycle, but “they’re just going to look a little bit different, to ensure social distancing and to ensure a safe experience for not only our poll workers working at the voting centers but also the voters themselves,” Bailey-Kanelos said.

Starting Oct. 16, voters can safely drop off their ballots at any of the 18 locations county-wide. By Oct. 31, all 84 county-wide locations will be open to the public to drop off ballots, according to Bailey-Kanelos. 

American River College will also be a drop-off voting center starting Saturday, Oct. 31. Voting rooms will be held in Community Rooms 1 and 2 and voters will be asked to enter through Lot A. The ARC voting center will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. starting Oct. 31 and will be open on election day from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The registrar’s office suggests people prepare early and drop off ballots before election day to assure safe social distancing. 

 

Where are the drop off voting locations? 

“The entire list of vote centers and ballot drop box locations will be in that guide and on our county website,” Bailey-Kanelos said.

The county registrars will start mailing out county voter guides to all registered voters starting in early October. 

In addition, the Sac Voter phone application and website can provide real-time map information on locating election centers, according to Bailey-Kanelos. Voters can also call 311 to get information on where to drop off ballots.

 

Is voting by mail safe and will it be counted if I send it late? 

“We are working closely with [the] United States Postal Service, to ensure the timely delivery and return of election materials, including the official ballots,” Bailey-Kanelos said. “We feel pretty confident that even with all the concerns out there, that our local post office hub in West Sacramento is definitely [going to] pull through for us.”

Many voters may experience anxiety over sending ballots through the mail, because of the uncertainty of their vote potentially not being counted. The registrar’s office says they will still count postmarked ballots mailed on or before the election, or they can drop off at any ballot at a dropbox or vote center, according to Bailey-Kanelos. 

Ballots sent by mail have to arrive three days after the election or face their vote being disqualified. More than 102,428 ballots were not counted during the March primary elections, for either being late or not having proper signatures, according to apnews.com. 

 

What is Sacramento County doing to prevent voter fraud? 

“Sacramento County and the state of California have very strict procedures in regards to [the] chain of custody of ballots and regards to the security of the ballot,” Bailey-Kanelos said. “Also the verification and eligibility determination of the ballots.” 

According to Bailey-Kanelos, the registrar’s office goes through a rigorous process of examining signatures and comparing those signatures to records.

Voter fraud is also a political concern for some voters, especially as many voters expect to mail in their ballots. 

Bailey-Kanelos said if there are issues with the signature not matching or not being present, the voter is contacted to give them the opportunity to correct the issue before the final election votes are certified. 

“The technology to be able to update in real-time once someone has voted, that’s it. They cannot vote again by mail or they cannot vote in person, cause we have the ability to check that in real-time,” Bailey-Kanelos said. 

 

What has been done about the possibility of voter intimidation?

 Bailey-Kanelos, says that if there are any “instances of voter suppression to call” the County Clerk’s office immediately. 

Voter suppression, which often affects people of color and the working class is also a hot topic issue. Historically, voter locations in working-class neighborhoods and communities of color have experienced voter suppression in the form of mandated reading tests, identification requirements, closing locations early, or simply not opening a voter location at all. Sacramento county is doing its best to prevent such voter suppression, says Bailey-Kanelos. 

 

Are IDs required to vote? 

“If a voter provided either their last four digits of their social security [number] or if they have a California driver’s license on file, even if they didn’t put it on their registration form, they will not have to show identification when and if they chose to vote in person,” Bailey-Kanekos said.

According to Bailey-Kanelos, a piece of mail with the individual’s name on it, other forms of government-issued ID cards and even utility bills can also be used to verify voting. 

“There should not be any intimidation or concerns regarding ID. If there are, please contact us. We actually will have signage at our vote center that ID is not required for every voter,” Bailey-Kanelos said.

 

How can you track down your ballot?

“There is actually this new cool system, called Where’s My Ballot that is being used statewide, that takes you to a program called ‘ballot tracks,’ where a registered voter can put in their information and they’re able to track their ballot status and it will actually provide the voter real-time updates on the status of the ballot,” Bailey-Kanelos said.

According to Bailey-Kanelos, people can check on the county or state’s websites to track down their votes if they mailed it in. 

For more information on voting, contact the Sacramento Registrar’s office through their website or by phone at (916) 875-6451.