Although the Nov. 3 general election is still 48 days away, Santa Barbara County voters can expect to see their vote-by-mail ballots arrive the last week in September as part of the Elections Division effort to get citizens to vote early.
The Elections Division finalized its ballot order Wednesday and plans to deliver an estimated 277,000 vote-by-mail ballots to the U.S. Postal Service in Santa Barbara around Sept. 29, Registrar of Voters Joe Holland said.
By Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order, every registered voter in California will receive a vote-by-mail ballot for the November general election as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The County Elections Division planned to send out vote-by-mail ballots Oct. 5. But Holland said that’s the day election officials can open and begin processing vote-by-mail ballots.
“So we’re going to mail 277,000 ballots the week before Oct. 5th,” he said. “I’m not going to wait. I’m probably going to vote Oct. 5th.”
He added, “It’s also the first day people can come in and vote their ballot in one of our three Elections Offices.”
Since voters can mark and return their ballots as soon as they receive them, Holland is urging citizens to mail them back as soon as possible to ease the flow and to be sure they are postmarked before Election Day.
Some voters have reservations about mailing in their ballots, after President Donald Trump claimed voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud and changes instituted by his newly appointed postmaster general have raised concerns about the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver vote-by-mail ballots on time.
Holland said he isn’t expecting any delay in the delivery, return and tallying of ballots here, in part, because he has confidence in postal workers.
“You know, U.S. Postal Service workers are amazing people,” he said. “They do a tremendous job, and they know the importance of this.”
He also has confidence in his staff, noting about 75% of the county’s approximately 277,000 currently registered voters — about 207,750 — were previously signed up to vote by mail.
“So we know how to do this,” Holland said. “It’s not heavy lifting to add another 77,000 vote-by-mail ballots.”
Santa Barbara County residents who prefer to not return ballots by mail can drop them in one of 36 drop-box locations scattered around the county.
They can also cast their votes in-person Nov. 3 at their designated polling place among 32 consolidated precinct locations that also will be open the three days before Election Day to encourage early voting.
“We couldn’t make it any easier for people to vote” Holland said, but he’s encouraging people to not wait until Nov. 3 to go to the polls.
“I’m afraid that if people wait till Election Day to vote, there are going to be some very long lines,” he said. “And obviously, it’s not safe. We’ll be doing everything we can — social distancing, using personal protective equipment, cleaning and sanitizing — but realistically, they’ll have their ballot; why not vote?”
Holland added, “As soon as we get your ballot, we’re going to count it. No one can see those votes until after 8 o’clock Election Night, of course, but we’re going to process them.”
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