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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Sacramento, Yolo County aim to make voting accessible to all who are eligible 

With the California primary election coming up on June 7, The Aggie explores accessible voting options for voters with disabilities and discusses how county officials are attempting to increase voter turnout

By LEVI GOLDSTEIN city@theaggie.org 

The California primary election mail-in ballots have been delivered and ballot drop boxes are open. But the turnout of voters ages 18 to 24 was lowest compared to other age groups in the 2020 presidential election, according to a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage of UC Davis students who vote in ASUCD elections is even lower. 

With this in mind, The Aggie spoke to Yolo County and Sacramento County officials to discuss how they are working to make voting accessible for all and increase voter turnout in the greater Sacramento area. 

 Student voters are highly valued, with the Yolo County Elections Office installing a permanent drop box on campus on April 19 this year. In addition, according to Jesse Salinas, Yolo County’s chief election officer, a voting center will be open in the ARC Ballroom from June 4 to 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as on Election Day, June 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.. 

Yolo County aims to make voting more accessible for all county residents, Salinas said. Yolo fully transitioned to be a Voter’s Choice Act county this year, according to Salinas, meaning voters can cast their ballots however they want, in-person or by mail, and at any polling place in the county. Every voter was mailed a ballot despite what they listed as their voting preference when they registered. Moreover, Yolo will have three voting centers open for a full 11 days starting on May 28, including one in Davis at the Veterans Memorial Center at 203 E. 14th St. 

Yolo County also recently started a mobile voting service center for remote communities. 

“We can bring democracy out to voters that may not be able to make it into a bigger city that we have our vote centers located at,” Salinas said. 

Barriers to access for students with disabilities on the UC Davis campus are an ongoing issue, and it is the same for voting access across the country. Yolo County provides alternative voting options to ensure voters with disabilities can cast their ballots. 

At polling places, there are machines with touchscreens with a variety of font options, audio listening and a joystick for navigation. There is also curbside voting where the polling staff can come to you in your car. If a person needs additional assistance, they can contact the office to arrange a remote vote by mail option.

For Sacramento County, the ​Sacramento County Voter Registration & Elections department works with a citizen Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee to ensure voters with disabilities have access to election materials and a Language Accessibility Advisory Committee to ensure voters who speak other languages have access, according to Janna Haynes, a county public information officer. 

“Our registrar of voters is very available to people for feedback and to talk through the latitude that we have based on election code,” Haynes said. “Some things the election code dictates that we don’t have any say in and other things we do have the opportunity to change based on the needs of our county. We are in a constant dialogue with our constituents.”

Options for voters with disabilities in Sacramento also include touch screen machines at voting centers. Voters can also request to use a more accessible website to vote at home. 

According to Haynes, in terms of language accessibility, the U.S. federal government requires that ballots are written in Spanish and Chinese in addition to English. Counties can add additional languages as needed. 

“This is our first election adding Vietnamese because we received quite a few requests from our constituents for Vietnamese,” Haynes said. “We also do have the ability to print out ballots at our vote centers in other languages.” 

Ultimately, the goal is that everyone eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote. 

“We need to be able to help make democracy accessible and available to all voters because the decisions that are being made by your local elected officials are very impactful,” Salinas said. “I want everybody to have the opportunity to have a voice determining who are the leaders that they want. […] Your way of making change is by voting and putting people into office who believe in the same values as you do. As a result, you can have an impact on your daily lives.”

A complete list of ballot boxes and voting centers in Yolo County is available at www.yoloelections.org/voting/polling_place and for Sacramento County at https://elections.saccounty.net/votecenters/pages/locations.aspx

 

Written by: Levi Goldstein — city@theaggie.org

 

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