Voting will look very different this year in order to protect people from the pandemic. The Inland Empire’s millions of registered voters will all receive ballots in the mail, but a number of in-person voting centers will also be available. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson has more on how voters in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties should prepare to vote this fall.
Voters in both counties need a plan for how they are going to vote and when. San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Bob Page says it’s their role to help people be informed.
“Especially this year it’s important that we do more in terms of voter education because of the changes," said Page. "The change in the polling place location, the change that there is going to be 30 percent of our voters who will receive a mail ballot that haven’t traditionally received one.”
So, step one of any voter’s plan should be to go online today and make sure they are registered to vote and confirm their contact information. That way ballots will be mailed to the correct address. All ballots are in both English and Spanish, so if voters need a different language, they can either fill out the application that comes on the back of their voter information guide or call their county’s registrar office.
Now, to step two. Voters should decide if they will use the ballot mailed to them or if they will vote in-person. Mail-in ballots are expected to be delivered to the post office on October 5. Both counties are encouraging voters to use them instead of heading to in person voting centers.
“We just don’t want long lines at those vote centers, and we also want to be able to practice six feet of social distancing at those vote centers," said Riverside County Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer. "So, we are encouraging voters to only use the vote center if you absolutely need to and as a last resort.”
Voters who lose or damaged their mail-in ballot or need assistance voting are welcome to use the voting centers. Both counties will have resources and poll workers available on site for the non-English speaking and those with special needs.
Riverside County is in the process of securing locations for 120 vote centers and San Bernardino will have at least 105. Those centers will open on October 31—four days before election day. These locations may be different than the usual polling places so check the county registrar’s website ahead of time.
If voters use their mail-in ballot they can either return it through the postal service using the pre-paid postage or use a county drop off location. Riverside and San Bernardino counties will have somewhere between 70 and 80 of these locations each and they will open up the first week of October. At the very latest ballots have to be postmarked or delivered to a drop off location by election day, November 3. But both counties are encouraging voters to return ballots early.
“If voters can return their ballots as soon as possible that will help us get them signature verified and counted and into the results center shortly after 8 p.m. on election night,” said Riverside County's Spencer.
The counties say they are prepared to handle 100 percent vote by mail especially since a majority of Inland Empire residents already vote that way.
San Bernardino’s Page says historically they receive about half of mail ballots on election day or during the three day after—which is the cut off for receiving those postmarked ballots. Like other election years, this means some of the closely contested races will not be finalized on election night. But Page says Californians are used to that especially since the number of people who vote by mail has crept up in recent years.
“You know for states that haven’t done this kind of level of mail ballot it is going to be a change for them but I think my hope is that most seasoned California voters understand that the result on election night are not final,” said Page.
States have 30 days to certify elections results. So worst case it might be December before Americans know the results of not only state legislative races but also who won the presidency.
Important Links for Voters: