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Everything you need to know about voting in-person in Sacramento County

During a pandemic, how does voting in-person work? There's a couple things election officials want you to be aware of.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Eighteen vote centers will open their doors to in-person voters on Saturday, Oct. 24 in Sacramento County. 

By Saturday, Oct. 31, all 84 will be open in Sacramento County, as well as across other counties in the Sacramento region, so you can vote in-person if you choose to do so, rather than mail-in your ballot.

But during a pandemic, how exactly will voting in-person work? There's a couple things election officials want you to be aware of and first and foremost is to expect longer wait times than in the past.

"There will be less voting booths at every location because of the need to social distancing," Sacramento County Public Information Officer Janna Haynes said.

Election officials are recommending you go in "off hours" to avoid long lines and groups of people.

"There are 11 days that you can go visit a vote center," Haynes said. "That includes 7 p.m. on a Friday or 10 a.m. on a Sunday."

In Sacramento County, you can cast your vote at any vote center location because of the Voter's Choice Act. While most people choose a library location, what many don't know is you can actually enlist the election office's help in comparing wait times at different vote centers.

"If you want to call ahead [and call] our office to check on wait times you can absolutely do that," Sacramento County Voter of Registrar Courtney Bailey-Kanelos said.

Here is a list of all phone numbers to local election offices

One of the best ways to help with wait times is to be prepared in knowing what and who you're going to vote for ahead of time. It's helpful if you bring your county voter information guide and sample ballot with you so you know your choices, it also helps expedite the check-in process because it has your name and information on it.

"That can help with the check in process since everyone will be wearing masks, there could be some communication barriers," Bailey-Kanelos said.

Speaking of masks, election officials are asking you bring and wear yours, but will have extras on-hand for people who may not have one or forgot theirs. There will also be safety measures in place like plastic barriers, increased sanitation, social distancing signs and PPE for election officials and voters in light of COVID-19.

If you were registered before and received a mail-in ballot, you don't need to bring it to the vote center, as that specific ballot will be voided in the system once you vote in-person.

All vote centers are also prepared if you need special assistance.

"We have our disability accessibility machines for people that may need them," Haynes said. "People may need language assistance. People may have ruined their ballots somehow and need a new one printed. We can do that at the vote center."

If you're someone who wants to watch the voting process, election officials will certainly let you. 

"We have procedures in place to make sure observers can line up and take their rotations, their turns in order to watch the process," Bailey-Kanelos said. "If it impedes on the voting, disrupts voters or there's any sort of intimidation or harassment, there's an absolute zero tolerance policy and we will ask them to leave."

Whether you're voting in-person or dropping your ballot in a drop box, you must be at least in line by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. 

"If you're in line by 8 p.m. you still get to participate even if it's after 8 p.m., but you have to be in line," Haynes said. "Those cut offs are firm. There's no wiggle room with that cut off line."

If you're still mailing in your ballot, you must have it in the mail by Tuesday, Nov. 3, so it has a postmark date on election day.

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