The Voters Choice Act is an exciting new model for elections administration. California Senate Bill 450, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 2016, authorizes counties to send every voter a mail ballot and provide ballot drop-off locations and vote centers throughout the county. In 2018, five counties successfully initiated the new law: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo. For the upcoming 2020 election,10 more counties will launch the modernized voting practice under the Voters Choice Act: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Orange, Santa Clara, Tuolumne – and Fresno! The Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved the new model in March,beginning with the upcoming presidential primary in March 2020.
As we transition to Vote Centers for the March 2020 election, it means that Fresno County voters will have more choices on where, when and how they would like to cast their ballot. It is essential that Fresno County voters check their current voter registration (www.votefresnocounty.com – click on “check your registration status”) and ensure that they are set to vote in 2020.
All registered voters will be sent a ballot in the mail 29 days before the election, so you won’t have to request a vote-by-mail ballot in advance. Voters will also be able to mail their ballot with no postage or drop it off at one of 50 Vote Centers or 33 secure drop boxes conveniently located throughout Fresno County. In addition to the drop-boxes, 10 days before Election Day throughout Fresno County, 10 Vote Centers will be open to the public. As Election Day gets closer, 50 Vote Centers and 33 secure drop boxes will be open three days before and on Election Day.
Community members have been highly involved in the process of selecting locations for Vote Centers and drop boxes. We have several committees, which will continue to meet through this process and we encourage public participation.
With the new model, traditional polling places will be replaced by Vote Centers. Instead of being assigned a single polling place, voters will have the freedom to cast a ballot in-person at any Vote Center in the county. The Vote Centers will look and feel like polling places, but they will provide additional enhanced features to make voting easier and more convenient.
At any Vote Center in Fresno County, a voter may vote in-person, drop off their ballot, get a replacement ballot, vote using an accessible voting machine, and register to vote or update voter registration. This new process will make it easier to vote where and when it’s convenient. Additionally, Vote Centers will have staff who will be available to support all voters, including those with disabilities and those who may need translation and language assistance. Free public transportation to Vote Centers will be provided in the Fresno and Clovis and rural parts of Fresno County, including FAX, Handy Ride, Clovis Transit and Fresno County Rural Transit Agency.
Increased voter participation is expected by providing voters with increased flexibility to vote when and where it is most convenient for them. The new process also modernizes elections in Fresno County. Overall, the Voter’s Choice Act gives voters more options so voters can choose when, where and how they vote.
Based on experience in other counties, Vote Centers will be busy on the last two days (Monday and Tuesday, March 2nd and 3rd). To avoid waiting, consider mailing your ballot, using a drop box or visiting a Vote Center before that Monday.
If you have questions, please contact the Fresno County Elections office at (559) 600-VOTE (8683), at Clerk-Elections@fresnocountyca.gov, or visit VoteFresnoCounty.com.
Brandi Orth is Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters