Polling Places Replaced
Last updated 3/1/2022 at 1:43pm
If you’re looking for your polling place to vote in the June Primary, you won’t find it. You will need to mail in your ballot, drop it off at a secure location, or find a “Vote Center,” to vote in-person. The new process begins with the June 7 Gubernatorial Primary Election.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recently voted for the county to join 25 other counties statewide in implementing a “vote center” model as a result of the California Voter’s Choice Act, which paved the way for counties to move from traditional polling places to vote centers.
Under the act, every active registered voter will automatically receive a ballot in the mail and have options for how to return their ballot: by mail, to a secure ballot drop box, or vote in-person at any vote center. The concept won’t be entirely new to local voters. The Registrar of Voters used a similar format for the November 2020 presidential general and September 2021 gubernatorial recall elections. More than 200 voting locations opened throughout San Diego County and allowed voters four days to cast their ballot in-person.
“I’m aware that new State legislation has mandated everyone receive a mail ballot and implementing Vote Centers is happening across the State. I’ve always been an advocate for people having the choice to vote in-person, so I’m glad that citizens in San Diego County, even those in our rural areas, still have this choice with the new State law,” San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond told the Borrego Sun.
The County has held public meetings on locations for the centers that considered a variety of factors. They are also recommending an advertising budget of $1 per voter to reach voters, particularly in non-English speaking communities, to ensure all people of voting age are aware of the changes and have equal opportunities to register, make corrections to registration information, and cast ballots by mail, or in-person at a voter center.
The last public meeting in January did not include a vote center in Borrego Springs, with the closest center in Ramona, or Escondido. However, Miles Himmel, Communications Director of Supervisor Desmond’s office, notified the Borrego Sun with the news that two new vote centers had been added: one in Borrego Springs and another in Warner Springs.
The vote-by-mail trend in California has reduced the use of traditional polling places, driving counties to the vote center model. Nearly 80% of the County’s 1.97 million registered voters are permanent vote-by-mail voters.
“When the June 2022 election cycle rolls around, more than 13 million registered voters in California – nearly 62% of the state’s voters – will be using the vote center model,” Interim Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes, said.
The number of vote centers is based on total voter registration. The law requires one for every 50,000 voters for 11 days and one for every 10,000 voters for four days. In San Diego County, current registration figures mean a minimum of 197 vote centers would open for four days including election day. Forty of the 197 would open an additional seven days for a total of 11 days. The new model also streamlines the election process for the Registrar’s office. Voters will no longer have an assigned polling place and can visit any voter center. Election workers at the vote centers will use state-certified electronic poll books to look up the same information available at the Registrar’s office. Polling places did not have this capability, requiring some voters to cast provisional ballots. Verifying provisional ballots can take two weeks or more after election day.
The Board also voted to fund secure mail ballot drop boxes throughout the County to drop off mail-in ballots. Based on the number of current registered voters, the Registrar must provide 132 ballot drop-off sites starting 29 days before the election. Vote centers would also act as drop-off sites.
According to Antonia Hutzell, public relations coordinator for San Diego County, “The Voter’s Choice Act” is designed to make voting more accessible and convenient. Voters will have more days and more ways to vote.”
Ballots will start going out in the mail to registered voters, starting May 9 for the California primary election. Voters can return their ballots in the mail, at one of the Registrar’s 130 official ballot drop box locations, or any one of 200 plus vote centers across the county.
Vote Centers are a one-stop shop and voters can vote in person at any vote center location. All centers will have a full deployment of touchscreen ballot marking devices which have the capability to bring up every ballot type in the election. The ballot marking device allows a person to vote at any location. For example, in the November 2020 Presidential General Election, there were over 4,000 variations of the ballot.
The ballot marking device allows election workers to pull up the voter’s correct ballot type and the voter can continue with the English ballot or select one of the county’s four federally covered languages (Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese) at any vote center.
The ballot marking device is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), also the ballot marking device does not tabulate or count any votes and it does not store any voter information. After the voter confirms a selection, the voter must print out their official ballot on the paired printer in the voting booth and place it in the ballot box to be counted at the Registrar’s office. With the use of electronic poll books and a full deployment of ballot marking devices, these centers allow voters to update their registration or register to vote and cast a ballot the same day.
Starting May 28, select vote centers will be open for four 11 days, including Election Day. Starting June 4, all 200 plus locations will be open for four days, including Election Day. Under the traditional polling place model, voters had to vote on Election Day at their assigned polling place. Those who did not go to their assigned polling place had to vote provisionally. Vote centers nearly eliminate the need to cast a provisional ballot.
Lastly, for anyone who does not receive a ballot in the mail, or if the voter made a mistake on their ballot, or needed to make corrections to their registration information, they can stop by any vote center to cast a replacement ballot using a ballot marking device.
A complete list of Ballot Drop Box and Vote Center locations will be available at sdvote.com on March 28, 2022.