California Secretary of State Alex Padilla spoke to reporters Wednesday about voting access and safety this year during the pandemic.
“To say this is an unprecedented year” with the political climate and the pandemic “would be an understatement,” said Padilla, who is the state’s chief elections officer.
The Nov. 3 presidential election is approaching and is less than eight weeks away. Padilla described the date as “the last day to vote,” and stressed voting by mail. He said voting by mail is the safest choice.
Every registered voter will get a ballot in the mail if their address on file is correct. Vote-by-mail ballots will be sent out during the first week of October.
The last day for mailing out ballots to voters is Oct. 5, but for military and overseas voters, ballots are mailed out 45 days in advance.
Ballots typically would be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to three days afterward, but this year ballots will be accepted up to 17 days after Election Day, Padilla said.
New this year is a notification system that allows voters to get a text, email or call telling them where in the process their ballot is, such as when it has been received and when it has been counted. The system is called Where’s My Ballot and it is meant to build trust in the voting process, Padilla said.
More than 900,000 voters have signed up, but there are 21 million registered voters in California. To sign up for Where’s My Ballot, people can go to california.ballottrax.net/voter/.
In-person voting will still be available this year, but it’s going to be different, according to Padilla. There will be masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing, he said. In-person voting might be necessary if a person lost their ballot or made a mistake on the one they received.
Padilla said some polling locations have changed because of the pandemic. Some may have needed to be larger, and in larger cities some organizations are making their large facilities available.
In the Bay Area, the Chase Center in San Francisco and the Oakland Coliseum will be places to vote. Voters can drop off their ballot at a polling location or in a dropbox.
The last day to register to vote is Oct. 19, but state law allows for same-day registration in case someone misses the deadline for registering online or updating their registration. Voters must go to a polling place to register and vote the same day.
Citizens can register to vote or update their registration by going to www.RegisterToVote.ca.gov.
Voters can check the status of their registration at voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/. They are urged to update their registration as soon as possible to be sure they get a ballot.
“We also recommend you vote early,” he said.
To protect against fraud in the vote-by-mail process, Padilla said the state has several protections in place. Watermarks on the ballots are unique to each election. Companies that print the ballots must be certified by the state. Return envelopes have unique barcodes and ballots are scanned to make sure people didn’t vote somewhere else. Also, each signature is checked.
People can help others to vote by becoming a poll worker or providing ideas for voting locations or even offering to host a location. For more information, people can go to PollWorker.sos.ca.gov.