Padilla breaks down November election voting process amid pandemic

A woman casts her ballot in a voting voting booth at the Castaic Regional Sports Complex in Castaic on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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In-person voting will still be available for November’s election, but operations will be strategic to keep voters and poll workers as safe as possible, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Thursday.

The voting experience this November for those planning to submit their ballots in person will be far different than in the past due to the pandemic, but the process will be improved following issues experienced with the March primary election, such as in Los Angeles County, Padilla said.

The March election saw overcrowded voting centers, long wait times, staffing shortages and software breakdowns. Many Santa Clarita Valley residents experienced wait times of about two hours, including Stevenson Ranch resident Shana Thomas, who described her experience as “a circus.” 

Voters line up around the corner of the Stevenson Ranch library building with less than an hour left to vote on election night. March 03, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

After an independent and a county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk investigation recently conducted into these issues, the county announced new technology to track wait times at the polls. Voters will also be able to track the status of their ballots via wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov

But technical and staffing issues are just one element in improving operations in November. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, election officials are working on safe setups that will be implemented at designated vote centers. 

“When it comes to COVID-19, one of two scenarios is going to play out: Either we will not have flattened the curve by November so we’ll have to figure out how to let people exercise their right to vote but still be safe and protect their health; or, even if we do flatten the curve, later in the year when the weather starts churning, there’s a chance of an uptick in cases. There’s going to be some level of public health risk,” said Padilla. 

The plan now is to implement many of the safety measures residents see today when out at businesses. If you plan on voting in person, be prepared to see hand sanitizing stations, distanced voting stations and continued mandates to wear face coverings and practice physical distancing. 

Though in-person options will be available, voting by mail early will be largely encouraged, according to Padilla. 

For those used to voting by mail, not much will change and every registered voter is expected to receive their ballot by mail 29 days prior to the Nov. 3 election, an executive order signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in early May, in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” said Padilla in a previous statement. “We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure, and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

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