The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way millions of Americans can vote this fall. States are expanding access to mail-in voting as a safer alternative to in-person voting, and some counties are making even further provisions to ensure voters can get their ballots in on time. San Luis Obispo County is no exception.
San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong says he expects this election to be historic. “With the political climate, and with the presidential race," Gong said, "it’s going to be the largest election we’ve had in our generation.”
Gong says this will also be the first time in California’s history that ballots will be mailed to every registered voter in the state. To ensure mail-in ballots avoid any postal delays, Gong says his office is sending ballots out much earlier this year. “This is going to happen at least 29 days before the Election," Gong said. "I’m aiming to get them out a little bit earlier. Our target date is October 1.”
The state has also launched a new tool called Ballot Trax to let people know exactly where their ballot is. “They can receive notifications via a text or an email to receive notification that their ballot is in the mail, that their ballot is in their mailbox, and upon return that their ballot has reached their destination," Gong said. Voters can sign up for the service at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov.
Gong says for those nervous about the accuracy and safety of mail-in ballots, no single person or party controls any portion of the process. “There’s a lot of checks and balances related to vote by mail voting," Gong said, "which your average voter is not going to understand.”
He says bipartisan teams transport, verify, open, sort, count, and store the ballots - all in secure rooms. Election judges and computers check each vote and signature against state registries before they’re tabulated.
Gong says those wanting to cast their ballot in person will have more days to do so, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place at 23 drop-off locations throughout the county. He says those locations will be open from October 31 through November 3.