Bay Area counties raising awareness about mail-in voting

Some Bay Area counties have started outreach to the public as they prepare to send out ballots to every registered voter for the first time before the November election.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in May due to the coronavirus pandemic, which ordered the Nov. 3, 2020 general election to be conducted as an all-mail ballot election.

In Contra Costa County, Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek, said 75% of registered voters already vote by mail, but mailers are being sent out to the 25% that will be receiving a mail-in ballot for the first time.

“Hopefully they'll like the option,” Konopasek said. “We've tried to make it as simple and straight forward as possible.”

The mailers were sent out this week and give voters the opportunity to update their signature by signing and returning a pre-paid postcard. Konopasek said the signatures the office has on file are usually the same signatures on a person’s driver’s license.

“A person's signature is like a fingerprint and we verify the signature on every ballot returned to us to make sure it matches the name of the voter and the signature we have on file,” Konopasek said.

The county is also trying a new email service provided by the U.S. Postal Service, which sends residents emails about what kind of mail is on the way.

In Santa Clara County, a vote-by-mail campaign has just launched, letting people know that voting from home is the safest option during the pandemic.

Chipo Mulenga, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, said polling sites will still be open with safety precautions, including social distancing and sanitization stations.

“With USPS having some delays, we're encouraging everyone to vote early and start as soon as they receive their ballot,” Mulenga said.

Ballots should be sent out on Oct. 5, 2020. Polling sites will still open on Nov. 3, but Bay Area counties are urging people to vote early.

“Given the uncertainty about November, we strongly recommend voters cast their ballot that they receive through the mail,” Konopasek added.