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Election 2020: Central Coast voters begin returning ballots

Angel Russell
The San Luis Obispo County Government Building one of the election drop-off box locations.

Over the past week, voters across the Central Coast started receiving vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots in their mailboxes, and with five weeks left before election day, some are already done voting and getting their ballots in to be counted.

“I’m dropping off my ballot," Joe Cardonna of Avila Beach said. "I’m very excited.”

Cardonna came into the San Luis Obispo County Government Building to return his ballot Friday.

“It made me feel for the first time that living in a free country and being able to vote—it's so extraordinary and powerful," Cardonna said. 

He said he has heard concerns about mailing ballots this year, with some fearing possible postal delays.

“I mean, I trust the mail," Cardonna said. "But if I could take a little pressure off of them and stick it right in the ballot box, it just felt a little closer to where it needs to get.”

Jennifer Gariby of San Luis Obispo said she was relieved when she got her ballot the day after the first presidential debate. 

“After the debate it was kind of grim for everyone," Gariby said. "Then the next day to see [her ballot] was kind of a glimmer of hope that ‘alright, this is the next step,’ you know? Let’s do this!”

In response to COVID-19, each registered voter in California will be receiving everything they need to vote by mail. Even the popular “I voted” sticker. 

“It came with the packet," Gariby said. 

Despite national conversations about the safety of VBM ballots, California officials say voting by mail is safe and that the state is well prepared to handle the volume.

San Luis Obispo County residents Brianna and Jared Stillfox said they usually vote at a polling center on election day, but decided not to do so this year. 

“With COVID, we didn’t want to go in person,” Brianna Stillfox said.

They decided they also didn’t feel completely comfortable mailing their ballots, and instead dropped them off at an election box. 

“We wanted to get it done as soon as possible," Stillfox said. "And to make sure it was safe in the box.”

For those who want to vote in person, in-person voting centers will open on Halloween. If you’re mailing your ballot, election officials say it's best to send off your ballot at least seven days before the election.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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