The sacred act of voting will be a little different for Tuolumne County residents in the 2020 elections, though officials are hoping the changes will make it easier and reduce costs.
The county Elections Office will implement the new system under the California Voters Choice Act beginning with the March 3 presidential primary election, after deciding not to do so in the 2018 elections because of a lack of funding.
County Auditor-Controller Debi Bautista, who also serves as the county clerk and registrar of voters, explained that the state has provided funding this year to purchase the new equipment needed to implement the system.
Bautista said the office’s budget for new equipment in the current fiscal year is about $290,000, which will be offset by $250,000 from the state and additional grants that she can retroactively use for purchases in past years.
All registered voters under the new system will receive a vote-by-mail ballot that they can cast at any designated “vote center” prior to or on election day, as opposed to going to an assigned polling location only on the day itself.
There will also be conveniently located drop-off locations throughout the county.
The goal is to make voting more accessible for everyone and boost participation by modernizing and streamlining the process. Bautista said it should also speed up the tallying of results and reduce costs to the county after the first year.
Bautista said the additional costs in the first year are mainly associated with outreach to inform the public about the changes.
“There are some one time costs in the budget this year for outreach and meetings that we won’t have to do in the future,” she said.
One of the chief savings in future years will be from the reduced number of polling locations and workers required for them. There were 27 stations throughout the county in the November 2018 election requiring more than 100 paid workers.
The county has scheduled a voting accessibility forum at 6 p.m., Aug. 29, and a language accessibility forum at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29 to educate people about the new system and get feedback.
The forums will be held in the county Board of Supervisors chambers on the fourth floor of the County Administration Center at 2 S. Green St., Sonora.
Tuolumne County typically sees a higher turnout of registered voters than most others in the state about 70 to 80 percent depending on the election cycle. In the November 2018 election, more than 75 percent of the 31,999 registered voters cast a ballot.
About 63 percent, or 20,217 of the county’s registered voters, cast a vote-by-mail ballot in the November 2018 election. Statewide, 65 percent of all California voters cast a vote-by-mail ballot.
Contact Alex MacLean at email@example.com or (209) 588-4530.