New Approach to Voting

By Community Alliance Staff

Fresno County has implemented a new methodology for voting based on the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA), which was approved by California lawmakers in 2016. Fresno County opted into the new system starting with the 2020 elections and is one of 15 counties throughout the state to do so.

The VCA expands voters’ options for how, when and where they cast their ballots. Voters will be able to vote on weekends, at any vote center in the county and by mail without requesting a mailed ballot in advance.

Twenty-nine days before the election, all registered voters in Fresno County will be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot. Voters will have three options to return that ballot:

  • Mail the ballot postage-free, postmarked no later than Election Day.
  • Place the ballot in one of the secure drop boxes located throughout Fresno County.
  • Take the ballot in person to one of the vote centers throughout Fresno County.

In many respects, the VCA makes it easier to vote:

  • Choose when you vote. Vote centers will be open four to 11 days, including weekends.
  • Vote at any vote center in Fresno County, which means you can vote near where you work, where you go to school or where you run errands.
  • Register to vote or update your registration at a vote center.
  • Automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot and vote it anytime in the month before the election.

At a vote center, you can drop off your ballot; request a replacement ballot and vote in person; or you can register to vote and cast a ballot the same day. Vote centers will have professional staff trained to support all voters, including those with disabilities and those who need language assistance.

All 50 vote centers will be open four days from the Saturday before Election Day through Election Day at 8 p.m. In addition, 10 vote centers will be open a full 11 days, including the two weekends before Election Day.

All vote centers will be open the weekend before Election Day, and 10 will be open for two weekends. Vote centers will be open eight hours per day prior to Election Day and 13 hours on Election Day.

A drop box is a secure steel, locked structure where voters may deliver their ballots from the time they receive them by mail up to 8 p.m. on Election Day. Drop boxes will be in convenient, accessible locations, including places close to public transportation routes. Drop boxes will be secure and locked. Election officials will retrieve ballots from the drop boxes on a regular basis during the voting period.

If you are not registered to vote, you will not receive a ballot in the mail, but if you are eligible to vote you can still do so. Visit any vote center in Fresno County, and you will be able to register and vote the same day.

Some voters will have to travel further than in previous elections to reach a vote center where they can vote in person. However, most voters in the Fresno/Clovis metropolitan area will live within two miles of a vote center. A vote center will be in every incorporated city in the county and some unincorporated communities.

Most vote centers will be accessible by public transit. Throughout Fresno County, free public transportation to vote centers will be provided for the four-day voting period. That includes the cities of Fresno and Clovis and rural parts of Fresno County, including FAX, Handy Ride, Clovis Transit and Fresno County Rural Transit Agency.

California voters are not required to show identification at their polling place. However, if you are a newly registered voter, who has not provided either a driver’s license or the last four digits of your Social Security number at the time of registration, you may be asked to show identification the first time you vote per federal law.

Note that every individual has the right to cast a provisional ballot even if he or she does not provide documentation.

In a process led by former Registrar and Supervisor Susan Anderson, public meetings were held to receive input on the county’s implementation plan for the VCA. Three public advisory committees were formed: Language Accessibility, Voter Accessibility and Voter’s Choice Act.

The Registrar’s Office, in consultation with the stakeholder advisory committees, decided where to place vote centers and drop boxes based on the criteria outlined in state law. These include considering where the population lives, access to public transit and parking, how frequently a community previously voted by mail and accessibility for people with disabilities.

The VCA should increase voter turnout. The law is modeled after a similar program in Colorado. When Colorado made the switch, voter turnout increased significantly. Lawmakers hope California will have a similar outcome.

Security

The VCA vastly improves protections against potential voter fraud:

  • When a voter uses a vote center, county officials will verify in the statewide voter database that no other votes have been cast by that voter.
  • The VCA nearly eliminates the need for provisional ballots, which also enhances security.
  • Vote-by-mail ballots require voter signatures that must match official records.
  • Vote centers will be staffed by trained professionals with strong knowledge of the law and proper voting procedures.
  • The VCA requires the use of new voting equipment with enhanced security standards.

Every vote-by-mail ballot received goes through a rigorous signature review process. The signature on every returned ballot envelope is captured electronically. That signature is compared to the signature on the voter’s registration card. After the electronic comparison, election staff can further compare the voter ballot signature to the signature on file.

Only after this thorough verification process will the ballot be removed from the envelope and counted. If the signature on the envelope cannot be verified or if there is no signature on the envelope, the Registrar’s Office will send a written notification to the registered voter, giving the voter the opportunity to come to the Registrar’s Office (2221 Kern St., Fresno) and sign the envelope.

No Party Preference Registrants

Persons who are registered No Party Preference must request a primary election ballot to vote for U.S. President. The American Independent, Democratic and Libertarian parties allow No Party Preference voters to participate in their Presidential Primary election.

You should have received a postcard from the Registrar that will allow you to request an American Independent, Democratic or Libertarian party ballot. If you want to vote in a primary for one of these parties, return the postcard in the mail.

If you do not return this postcard, you will be mailed a ballot without any Presidential candidates. If this happens, you can still request a ballot from your county elections official by phone, e-mail or fax.

You can also bring your vote-by-mail ballot to your local polling place or vote center and exchange it for a ballot with Presidential candidates.

If you want to vote for the Green, Peace and Freedom or Republican parties’ presidential candidates, you must re-register with that specific party to do so.

(Editor’s note: The above information was compiled from Fresno County Registrar of Voters sources.)


Check Your Registration

Check your voter registration status, including political party, at any time by visiting voterstatus.sos.ca.gov. You can also call the Voter Hotline at 1-800-345-8683 to check your status.

If you need to register to vote for the first time or update your voter registration information, including political party or an address change, visit registertovote.ca.gov. After Feb. 17, you will need to register in person at a vote center or the Registrar’s Office (2221 Kern St., Fresno).

Vote Center Locations

For Fresno County vote center locations and operating hours, visit votefresnocounty.com.

Election Workers Needed

Positions are available for Elections Outreach Coordinators and Elections Workers. Apply at http://agency.governmentjobs.com/fresnoca/default.cfm. For more information, visit votefresnocounty.com or call 559-600-3038.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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