STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — Neighborhood polling centers will be getting traded out for satellite offices in Stanislaus County for the 2020 election.
The county will be sending out vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots to all registered voters in the county, and voters will be able to cast their votes by mail or at a satellite office. According to Registrar of Voters Donna Linder, vote-by-mail ballots will generally be familiar territory for 77% of the voters in the county.
“Stanislaus County for at least our past three elections or more we had 77% of our voters be vote by mail, so we’re only adding the 23% of voters that have been signed up to go to the poll historically,” said Linder.
In some respects, it’ll be an expanded version of what VBM voters saw during the Primary Election, specifically due to the increase of satellite offices and drop boxes.
“We’re just expanding that into this election, so it’s things that we are actually familiar with - [we're] just expanding them to meet the needs of this type of an election,” Linder said.
Here’s everything you’ll need to know about voting in Stanislaus County for the election.
In Person Voting
Voters in Stanislaus County will be getting their VBM ballots in the mail, but they won’t necessarily have to cast their vote by mail to get it counted.
They can still participate in the process to some degree with the satellite offices. Linder said these offices will let you drop off your ballot in person if you choose to do so. It'll also be a place for voter registrations, replacement ballots, accessible ballot marking devices, and language assistance.
Satellite offices are being swapped in for traditional neighborhood polling places. It generally means that you shouldn’t expect to see your neighbor’s garage serving as a polling place.
A large part of that had to do with space for social distancing. Satellite offices need to be larger than a typical polling location for this election.
“Your neighbor’s garage would not have worked anymore because [it’s] too small of a location to have social distancing and allow room for enough voters to come in and vote...” Linder said.
You’ll find 26 of these satellite offices spread throughout the county that’ll be open from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3.
To find the nearest satellite office near you, click HERE or look through your voter information guide. Satellite offices will be open from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Voting by Mail
Nearly 4 out of 5 of the registered voters in Stanislaus County are familiar with the vote-by-mail routine. The main difference this year is that they’ll have a lot more options to drop off their ballot.
You can mail the ballot, bring it an official drop box, or bring it to a satellite office and drop it off there.
In the last election, Linder said there were seven drop boxes and four satellite offices, but for the General Election, they’re upping that to 26 satellite offices and 18 drop boxes.
When it comes to ballot security, Linder said each ballot goes through a signature check and gets verified before it is opened and counted.
“They have that security that we are checking to make sure that it was them that signed the ballot, that they sent back their ballot and with our drop boxes being picked up by our staff, it’s like they could take the ballot and put it from their hand to our hand,” Linder said.
You can find satellite offices and drop box locations by clicking HERE. Drop boxes will be ready to use by Oct. 5.
The county said you can also sign up for alerts with BallotTrax at https://california.ballottrax.net/voter/. With this tool, you'll be able to track when your ballot is mailed and received by our office.
Due to the coronavirus, any trip you take to a satellite office will be a socially distant one. The locations were chosen in part for that very reason.
There will be seven to eight socially distant staff members at each spot and they all will be equipped with PPE like masks, hand sanitizer, and shields. Specifically, these shields will be put between voters and employees that check them into the satellite office.
You’ll also be seeing employees in masks and wiping down all the equipment used by voters after use.
Staffing for an election
In years past, Linder said there’s usually 120 to 140 polling locations in Stanislaus County with about 1,000 poll workers to make things flow smoothly for a presidential election.
However, Linder said they didn't reach that goal this year.
“We did not have enough poll workers interested in this election,” said Linder “We have since now are getting applications, but things had to be in place prior to now – we’re placing people in locations now.”
Linder resolved that issue with the satellite offices and hiring part-time workers to handle the check-ins and printing of the ballots.
For election volunteers, the county said they have enough to meet the staffing requirements for the election under the new model. The volunteers will be trained in COVID-19 sanitation and greeting and helping voters.
Linder recommends that voters remember to sign their envelope after marking their ballot. This is how the office processes the ballot, and they can’t do so unless the envelope is signed and the signature is verified.
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