Despite pandemic, voter turnout predicted to remain similar to previous years
This article was updated on Sept. 17 to reflect that the Harper Junior High School VAC was changed to Montgomery Elementary School.
In a press release published on Aug. 18, 2020, Yolo County announced “proposed Voter Assistance Centers (VACs) and Ballot Drop-off (BDB) locations to be used in the upcoming November 3, 2020 General Election” in accordance with Senate Bill SB 423 and guidance from the California Secretary of State Office.
There will be 12 VACs and BDBs in Yolo County, according to the press release. The VACS include the Davis ARC Center Ballroom, Montgomery Elementary School, Patwin Elementary School, the Veterans Memorial Center, as well as others in Esparto, West Sacramento, Winters and Woodland.
Additionally, the BDBs include locations in both Nuggets Markets, City Hall and Westlake Market, alongside others in Yolo County. A full list of the VAC and BDB locations and hours can be found in the press release or on the Yolo Elections website.
Yolo County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Jesse Salinas explained how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted voting in an email interview.
“COVID-19 has significantly impacted our society at large and also the world of elections,” Salinas said via email. “The current pandemic has placed significant restraints and concerns on voting and how election administration will be adjusted, not only for the upcoming election but for years to come.”
UC Davis Lecturer of Political Science Dr. Isaac Hale also explained how voting may be different this year due to the impacts of COVID-19. According to political science research, states that use all-mail voting, such as California and Oregon, result in having higher turnout rates, Dr. Hale explained.
“I think that COVID-19 will absolutely affect voting,” Dr. Hale said via email. “In the U.S., election administration is largely left up to each state, so the way it plays out will vary. Here in California, voters are automatically being sent mail-in ballots. As such, turnout in California will probably not be decreased as a result of COVID-19.”
Salinas also explained the voting procedures for the upcoming election, such as being able to vote from home.
“Every active registered voter in California will be sent a Vote-by-Mail ballot in advance of the November election (Vote-by-Mail ballots will be sent Monday, Oct. 5, 2020),” Salinas said via email. “Voters will be able to vote from the comfort and safety of their own home.”
In order for there to be “added vote-by-mail transparency,” voters can track their ballots via “Where’s My Ballot,” sign up for automated notifications or USPS Informed Delivery to know when their Vote by Mail ballot may be arriving.
Furthermore, return postage is paid for and ‘“I voted” stickers will be sent with the ballots, according to Salinas. Additionally, there will be 12 VACs from Oct. 31, 2020 to Nov. 3, 2020.
Social distancing and safety guidelines will also be implemented in VACs and BDBs to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
According to the CDC guidelines for voting, there should be measures and guidelines in place such as wearing masks, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and crowd management.
“Containment and prevention efforts are the primary concern of all preparation activities for the upcoming November election,” Salinas said via email. “The Yolo County Election Office’s goal is to deliver a safe voting experience for all participants – employees, voters, volunteers and observers. The Elections Office has been working in direct partnership with the Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) and the Secretary of State’s Office to safeguard the well-being of all participants in the upcoming election.”
According to Salinas, there will be “rigorous sanitation practices and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to limit potential exposure and spread of COVID-19 in all VACs is a top priority.”
Voters should be prepared by checking their registration status, making a plan for in person voting or returning their ballot and staying informed through reliable sources such as the Yolo County Elections, Salinas advised.
In addition, Salinas’ message to voters is that home is the safest place to vote from. The Elections Office has 17 days after Election Day to receive the ballots, provided they are postmarked by Nov. 3. Voting procedures will also be conducted with integrity, with signatures on returned ballots being checked against voter registration signatures, and official ballots only being printed on certified paper.
Dr. Hale also noted that it is unclear whether changes to the US Postal System would affect voting-by-mail, such as mail-in-votes not being received in time.
Ultimately, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, voters will still be able to cast their votes, and health and safety measures will be implemented to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Written by: Shraddha Jhingan — firstname.lastname@example.org