Gail Pellerin, the Santa Cruz County Clerk, has been hard at work campaigning for the past few months, but not in the political sense of the word!   Pellerin and her staff are amid their efforts to organize and encourage all County residents’ participation in the November 2020 election.  As a part of their campaign, the County Clerk has hosted several Zoom meetings to dispel concerns over the democratic process, particularly around COVID safety, mail-in voting, and fire evacuees’ voting resources. On October 1st, I sat in on the presentation. Throughout I felt great pride in our elected officials’ ability to overcome the many obstacles of the past months and a desire to fulfill my civic duty!  Here are some tips and tricks I picked up along the way to help you vote as well.

Pellerin excitedly announced that “more than 168,000 voters are already registered, a new record for Santa Cruz County!”  With record numbers, a pandemic, and evacuees, Pellerin and her team are greatly focused on accessibility.  They’re introducing many new options for voters to ease the process. “We now have a wait time app to manage the lines.  Voters will be let in as space allows.  If not, you’ll be put in the queue and we’ll ask for your cellphone number, email, or you can wait in a designated area. When it’s your turn you’ll get an alert and you’ll be able to check your vote times at different locations, much like urgent care centers.”

On top of the new queue app, Pellerin is also introducing curbside voting, “for anyone.”  You simply approach the workers on site and fill out a form to begin the voting process in your car.  For added accessibility, Pellerin reports that all voting locations are wheelchair accessible, with digital ballot with options for audio voting, larger fonts, and both English and Spanish.  If you call by Friday October 30th, the Clerk’s office can arrange rides to and from voting locations as well. You also have the option of voting with a Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail Ballot (RAVBM), which was previously only available to military and disabled voters.  The RAVBM system, if you sign up via www.votescount.us, will email you a ballot to then print, fill out, and then mail in.

Finally, Santa Cruz County now owns a “vote mobile, that can go anywhere.”  The mobile center will be sent to Davenport, Bonny Doon, Corralitos, and residential facilities among other locations.  

With these new innovations, the Clerk hopes to “flatten the voting curve,” citing difficulties in processing the vast amount of last minute ballots in the elections of last March.  “We’d like to get ballots sooner rather than later, because as soon as we get it we can begin to process it, checking the signature, inspect the ballot, scan it, but we don’t tabulate until after 8 p.m. November 3rd.”

If you plan to vote in person this November, Pellerin summarized your options:

Voting locations will be open during these times:

Saturday, October 31: 9am- 5pm 

Sunday, November 1: 9am- 5pm

Monday, November 2: 8am- 5pm

Tuesday, Election Day, November 3: 7am- 8pm.

Once at the location you will be able to:

  • obtain a replacement ballot,
  • vote and turn in the ballot mailed to you,
  • use the tablet to vote on an accessible ballot or a ballot in Spanish, and
  • register and vote on the same day.

 Voting Locations in Our Communities:

  • Boulder Creek: Boulder Creek Recreation Hall, 13333 Middleton Ave
  • Felton: San Lorenzo Valley High School, 7105 Highway 9
  • Scotts Valley: Scotts Valley Community Center, 360 Kings Village Rd
  • Scotts Valley: Scotts Valley High School, 555 Glenwood Drive

However, take these locations with a grain of salt.  As Pellerin put it, “We’re still saying locations are subject to change, because one thing we’ve learned in 2020 is that change is about the only thing we can count on. If there’s any other disaster or a rise in COVID cases, check our website for updates.”

The voting locations will also be following standard COVID procedures, “requiring face coverings, two arms’ length between each other, washing hands, and using hand sanitizer. I suggest you bring your own pen, and we will take your temperature before entering.”

If you’d like to drop off your ballot, you can find boxes at these locations:

  • Ben Lomond - Highlands Park, 8500 Highway 9
  • Boulder Creek- Library, 13390 W. Park Ave.: walk up
  • Felton- Covered Bridge Park, Mt. Hermon/Graham Hill Rd.
  • Scotts Valley- City Hall, 1 Civic Center Drive
  • Drop boxes will also be available for residents at residential care facilities.

Pellerin added, “Any business that would like a drop box should get in touch and we’ll make that happen.”

The County Clerk’s finally gave advice for those mail-in voters,  “If you do decide to mail your ballot, make sure it’s postmarked on or before November 3rd.  If you’re mailing near November 3rd, I’d suggest walking in and making sure you get the postmark before November 3rd.”

If you missed out on the previous Voting Matters meetings and would like to tune in to the next, you can find more information at www.votescount.us about the October 15th presentation.  And you guessed it, when in doubt about any part of the voting process, check out www.votescount.us.

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