Editorials

Everything you need to know about voting, but were never told

Keisha Williams and her mother Maryann Williams fill out their ballots in their car outside the Sacramento County elections office on 65th Street on June 5. Voting is well underway for the Nov. 6 election.
Keisha Williams and her mother Maryann Williams fill out their ballots in their car outside the Sacramento County elections office on 65th Street on June 5. Voting is well underway for the Nov. 6 election. jvillegas@sacbee.com

We’re now in the final week of voting in one of the most consequential elections in years. So it’s even more important to cast an informed ballot – and to make sure it gets counted.

In Sacramento County, if you mail your ballot, make sure you use two first-class stamps because the two-card ballot requires 71 cents of postage. Here’s some inside information, though: If a ballot doesn’t have enough postage, the county elections office has an agreement with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver it anyway and the office will pay the difference.

Starting in 2019, California voters won’t have to worry about postage at all because, under a new law, they will receive prepaid return envelopes with their mail ballots.

With the continued threat of interference and misinformation, Secretary of State Alex Padilla this week launched a new public education campaign and web portal to provide official information on the election. The VoteSure site includes links for voters to look up their registration, find their polling place and learn about their rights. Voters also can report suspicious content spotted on social media.

If you want to know state and local results as quickly as possible, you might consider voting before Nov. 6. Counting votes in California can be notoriously slow, and so far the all mail ballot system being tested in Sacramento County isn’t speeding things up.

While the ballots can be mailed in or dropped off weeks ahead of Election Day, many voters still prefer to wait. For the June primary, two-thirds of all ballots in Sacramento County arrived in the last three days of voting.

Under the new Voters Choice Act, Sacramento County replaced more than 500 traditional polling places with 78 larger vote centers and 53 drop box locations that are open sooner.

Elections officials learned some lessons. In the Nov. 6 ballot packet received by all voters, the vote center locations and drop box sites are on different sheets of paper to lessen confusion. And the hours for each location are printed more clearly; in June, some voters arrived at closed sites and had to slide their ballots under the door.

Unfortunately, elections officials did not fix one problem: Helping homeless people vote.

In June, they declined to put a vote center or drop-off location near Loaves & Fishes that would have been convenient to the hundreds of homeless people who go there every day for services, despite perfectly reasonable requests from advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Officials have compounded this mistake for the November election. The county says with limited staff and vehicles to pick up ballots, it stuck with the same locations as June, based on which would be busiest for the full 28 days of voting.

Still, you’d hope some allowance would be made, especially when housing and homelessness are such a big issues on the Nov. 6 ballot, including Sacramento’s Measure U sales tax and the statewide Proposition 10 on rent control. It just seems wrong that the people most directly affected by those decisions will have the toughest time voting.

The county can still do the right thing, but time is running out.

Voting help

For more information from the Secretary of State, go to VoteSure.sos.ca.gov.

For more information if you’re a Sacramento County voter, go to www.Elections.SacCounty.net or send an email to VoterInfo@saccounty.net.

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