Democracy’s most sacred right, voting, is already underway in California with all 21 million registered voters having received a mail-in ballot.
While voting by mail may have stirred controversy on a national level, here in California, we have grown comfortable with making our decisions around the kitchen table, marking our choices on candidates at the local, state and federal levels, as well dozens of ballot measures. In 2018, 65% of California ballots were cast early or by mail and more than 70% of us Golden Staters are registered as permanent absentee voters.
When our choices are made, we appreciate the safety and convenience of sending in our ballots by mail or dropping them off at a secure vote center, knowing they will be handled and counted by local election officials and their staffs.
Confidence in Vote by Mail
My confidence in California’s Vote by Mail (VBM) process was reinforced early this year when I was honored to be the business community’s representative on the 2020 Election Working Group convened by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The working group was convened by the Secretary of State out of the necessity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to move away from the traditional model of in-person polling locations.
My neighbor’s garage or the apartment building recreation room where I’ve previously voted will not work in an era when vulnerable populations are reluctant to leave their homes and social distancing has become, by health and safety imperatives, the new norm.
The working group consisted of individuals representing community-based organizations, academics and, most importantly, several registrars of voters from counties across California.
I came away from this process reassured that California’s election is in safe hands because of the cooperation between the office of the Secretary of State and the professional county registrars who are the on the front line, tasked with ensuring California voters have a fair and safe election experience.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Consider these important facts:
Every ballot comes with a unique barcode that cannot be replicated or mistaken for someone else’s vote.
When you finish filling out your ballot, you sign the postage paid return envelope so that county officials can compare the signature to the version they have on file.
And taking a cue from the private sector, Californians can track their ballots just like an Amazon package by signing up with california.ballottrax.net/voter/. You know when your ballot was received and when it was counted by the registrar.
Our historic and sacred process has met up with today’s technology.
These changes to how Californians cast their ballot did not happen overnight. It has been an evolving process over the past few election cycles. Certainly, voting by mail has steadily grown in popularity as people learned to trust the process and appreciate the convenience.
In 2016, the California Legislature passed the Voter’s Choice Act, giving people the option to vote by mail or visiting a vote center to either cast or drop off their ballots. There are now 14 counties, including Orange, Los Angeles and Sacramento, representing more than 10 million voters who are Voter’s Choice Act counties.
As residents of Sacramento County, my wife and I received our March Primary ballots in the mail and decided to visit a local vote center to cast them in person. We chose to vote this way because I am basically an elections nerd and wanted to see how the process worked. Happy to say, it worked just fine.
November Election Choices
For the November General Election, more than half the state’s voters will have the choice of how to cast their ballot, either in person at a vote center or by mail.
Apparently in Los Angeles County, Dodger Stadium will be a vote center location. You won’t need a ticket for entry but, then again, you likely will not be able to buy a Dodger Dog either. To learn more about where to vote, people can visit vote.ca.gov.
As for how to vote, the California Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has several recommendations on statewide ballot measures and you can learn more about those by visiting www.calchamber.com/ballot.
Finally, why vote? As mentioned above, it is a sacred right that we as American citizens have been granted and had reaffirmed over the course of more than 200 years. Exercise that right and go vote.
Martin R. Wilson is executive vice president, public affairs, for the California Chamber of Commerce