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Never voted by mail before? This is how it works in Sacramento County

Sacramento County was one of the first counties, and the largest county in the state, to use county-wide mail-in voting.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 860 into law, which mandates every active registered voter in California be mailed a ballot out of an abundance of caution against exposure to COVID-19. 

As of March 2020, just 15 of the state’s 58 counties already had that policy in place. Sacramento County was one of the first and it provides a good idea as to what other counties can expect for the November 2020 elections.

There are three ways people can vote in Sacramento County. One, you can fill out the ballot you receive in the mail and send it back through the mail. No postage is necessary. Two, you can fill out the ballot you receive in the mail and take it to any drop box location or vote center in the county. Or three, you can go to a vote center to cast your vote in person.

Ballots for Sacramento County will be mailed out on October 5 and are expected to take anywhere from three to seven days to reach their destinations. 

Ballot drop boxes also open on the same day. People can fill out their ballots and either mail them back or drop them off the same day if they choose.

AB860 also requires county officials to count any ballot received within 17 days of the election, as long as it’s postmarked by election day.

Sacramento authenticates every ballot in multiple ways. The first is every ballot’s unique bar code. This bar code is scanned when the ballot is received and this allows voters to track when their ballot arrived at the processing center.

Additionally, each ballot envelope must be signed by the voter. This signature is then cross-checked against other signatures the county has on file, such as from voter registration and the signature on one’s driver’s license. If there is not an exact match or someone failed to sign their ballot envelope, the ballot is *not* thrown out. Instead, the county will reach out to request another signature to ensure the ballot gets counted and is verified from the voter.

After ballots are authenticated, they are opened, the ballot is separated from the envelope, the ballot becomes anonymous, and it's counted.

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