Election 2020: Early in-person voting at two SLO County locations

Oct 9, 2020

With four weeks left until election day, over five million voters across the country have already cast their ballots. Some are voting by mail, while others are doing so in-person at early voting centers.

Two in-person early voting sites opened this week in San Luis Obispo County, one at the county clerk-recorder's office in San Luis Obispo and the other at the clerk's office in Atascadero. 

“It’s really like a month of voting for us in this way,” SLO County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong said. 

Gong said he decided to open up two early voting polling centers to train his staff on getting comfortable with the voting process this year, especially with COVID-19 precautions in place.

“We have trainers right next to [staff] as they are working," Gong said. "My staff are out here to make sure everything is going smoothly  and ultimately, the voters are going to drop off their ballots into the ballot box.”

For people coming in to vote, there are socially distanced lines to follow on the ground, and polling staff are wearing masks or face shields.

Gong said while some people are coming in to vote in person, most are coming in for other ballot reasons.

“This is where voters [come who] need a replacement ballot, for example," Gong said. "Many of them are dropping off their vote-by-mail ballots instead [of mailing them]. We are seeing a large number of those dropping off their ballots compared to people voting in person, I would say 20 to 1.”

But for San Luis Obispo resident Dolores Hays, she came into the polling center because, she said, she doesn’t feel comfortable dropping off or mailing in her ballot. 

“Everything is a mess," Hays said. "I’m going to vote in person.”

Hays said she votes in person every year, but especially felt it was more important this election to cast her vote early in-person. 

“At least it’s done by me, and I put it in the box," Hays said. "Then I’m not responsible for where it goes from there.”

Gong said the remaining 21 polling locations, now called voter service centers, throughout San Luis Obispo County will open on Halloween for four days of voting.