Valley Voices

Brandi Orth: Check out our new online voter tool

Fresno County elections chief Brandi Orth is unveiling a new online voter tool called Fresno County VOTES. You can access it at http://www.co.fresno.ca.us/elections
Fresno County elections chief Brandi Orth is unveiling a new online voter tool called Fresno County VOTES. You can access it at http://www.co.fresno.ca.us/elections Fresno Bee File Photo

As the Fresno County clerk/registrar of voters, one of my most important responsibilities is to provide voters information and tools to successfully navigate through the election process, enabling you to participate and have a positive voting experience.

The Fresno County Clerk’s Office is excited to offer a newly created online tool for you in this busy election year. It’s called Fresno County VOTES, representing verification, online access, 24/7, elections matter and speak out.

It is on our website (www.co.fresno.ca.us/elections) and is easily accessible from your mobile device. This new tool will provide you with a variety of information, including confirmation that you are a registered voter in Fresno County; the address where you are registered; your political party; and if you are a permanent vote-by-mail voter (meaning your ballot will automatically be mailed to you prior to each election.

Fresno County VOTES will also provide a list of all the political districts you live in and, 29 days prior to each election, will provide you the name and address of your polling location.

To start, you will be asked to enter specific information into our secure website to verify your identity. This information will locate your current voter registration profile and make it available for your review. We encourage you to update your information, if necessary; instructions are provided on how to do so.

Your voter registration information must reflect your current residential address. The law requires that official ballot material should only be received and voted on by the specific registered individual to whom it is addressed. If the postal carrier cannot locate you at the address listed on the mailing piece, then the official ballot material will be returned to the Fresno County Clerk’s Office as undeliverable.

Election mail is not permitted to be forwarded by the post office to a different address. While we make every effort to obtain your new address through other methods (like the national change-of-address information provided by the post office), sometimes there is no other data available and we will not be able to locate you. This is why it is imperative that your current residential address be listed on your registered-voter profile.

The races you are eligible to vote on and what issues appear on your ballot are determined by your residential address. For example, if you live in Clovis, you are not eligible to vote on the City Council races for Fresno. In the November 2014 election, Fresno County had 54 different political districts. Each unique combination of races generated 207 customized versions of the ballot to ensure that each voter received the correct ballot material regarding candidates and measures.

The ability to confirm your registered political party affiliation before the June 7 presidential primary election is especially important. Party ballots will be issued in the primary election, meaning if you are a registered Democrat, then your party ballot will include the Democratic presidential race and Democratic Central Committee race. Conversely, if you are a registered Republican, then your party ballot will include the Republican presidential race and Republican Central Committee race, etc. If you are not registered with a qualified political party (referred to as nonpartisan, decline to state, no party preference) your primary election ballot will not include any presidential races.

If you are not a registered voter but would like to be, you may register to vote if you are: a United States citizen; a resident of California; 18 years of age or older on or before Election Day; not currently imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony; or not found by a court to be mentally incompetent.

The California Secretary of State offers online voter registration at www.registertovote.ca.gov. It’s convenient, efficient, and includes a unique way of collecting your signature. Working in conjunction with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, by providing your California driver’s license number, your specific information will be compared with your information on file with the DMV.

Once a match is found, it pulls your signature from the DMV and sends it to the Fresno County Clerk’s Office via an encrypted transmission. This signature will become your signature of record for election purposes and will be used to compare your signature on any elections petition you may sign, or ballot you return by mail.

Many of us registered to vote many years ago. Over time, we may have acquired stylistic changes to our handwriting, or illness may have forced us to adjust our signature. If you are one of these voters, contact us for assistance. A paper voter registration card can be mailed to you and you can quickly re-register and return a current handwriting sample.

We hope that you will try Fresno County VOTES. Our new voter registration verification tool was created especially for you. If you have any questions or problems accessing this technology, please contact us at 559-600-8683 or by email at clerk-elections@co.fresno.ca.us.

We want you to receive the ballot and sample ballot booklet that is specific to you at your current residential address. Let us help you get ready to make your voice heard in the important upcoming elections.

Brandi Orth is the Fresno County clerk/registrar of voters.

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