REGION — Vote-by-mail ballots sent to all registered San Diego County voters are the safest, most convenient way for residents to take part in the Nov. 3 election while preventing the spread of the coronavirus, county officials said today.
But for those who prefer to vote in person, the Registrar of Voters office in Kearny Mesa is also now open for early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Starting Tuesday, voters also have the option to drop off their ballot at one of 126 mail ballot drop-off locations around the county — including dozens of libraries, YMCAs, county offices and The Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park.
An in-person voting location tool can be found on the county’s voting website, SDvote.com.
Voters are instructed to bring a face mask and plan to maintain social distance. The registrar’s office stressed it is adhering to the county’s public health orders and will make reasonable accommodations when needed to ensure the health and safety of all employees, voters and observers — even as it encourages mail-in voting.
“We encourage voters to act early and make voting decisions from the comfort and safety of their home,” said Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. “Mark your ballot, sign, seal and return your mail ballot to a trusted source. The sooner we receive your ballot, the sooner we can start processing it so it will be counted right when the polls close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.”
There are more than 1.9 million registered voters in the county, and the first ballots will arrive in mailboxes Monday afternoon. Voters will also find their “I Voted” sticker inside their official mail ballot packet.
Voters can return their marked ballot in the pre-paid postage envelope to any U.S. Postal Service office or collection box.
Locations of vote centers were carefully chosen and configured to allow for queuing and voting while maintaining six feet of social distance, officials said. Masks will be required inside, but residents who are unable or unwilling to wear them will be allowed to vote curbside.
However, officials noted that he need to social distance may create lines at in-person locations.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said last week that “COVID-19 increases the likelihood of lines on Election Day. I am encouraging voters to cast their ballot early this fall.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating immense challenges for elections officials. Many traditional voting locations and poll workers are not available this year. Public health guidelines demand that vote centers be reconfigured for voter safety,” Padilla said Thursday.
During the March primary, voters in San Diego County mostly avoided long lines in places such as Los Angeles that forced voting centers to stay open beyond 8 p.m., but Vu said his office was continuing to push for mail-in voting to avoid potential issues.
Turnout in general is expected to be high in a contentious election year, and it may take longer than usual for results to be calculated locally and elsewhere across the country. New state law requires ballots postmarked by Election Day but not received until as long as 17 days later to be included in the vote totals.
However, the shift to regional voting centers instead of local precincts means it will be more difficult for the public and media outlets to track what percentage of votes have been counted on election night.
President Donald Trump has preemptively cast doubt on the results of the presidential election, calling out alleged instances of voter fraud associated with mail-in balloting, even though multiple audits over the years have shown such fraud is rare enough to be inconsequential. The president has urged his voters to go to the polls in person.
The deadline for registering for a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 19, however, residents can register to vote at any voting center up to and including Election Day.