Bay Area elections officials team up to educate voters, curb misinformation

Ahead of the June 7 primary, elections officials in eight Bay Area counties, plus three others, have teamed up to assure public trust in the elections process.  The Registrars of Voters in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties are working together to share non-partisan and accurate information to the nearly 5 million voters they serve. 

Final preparations are underway at the Contra Costa County elections office. Deputy clerk-recorder Tommy Gong and his team are busy tuning up their machines, running through assignments and making sure they’re ready to receive and count votes in a critical midterm year. "Just like preparing a race car for the Daytona 500, or the Le Mans race, you’re going to be exercising your machines to be sure they’re functioning at a high level," said Gong. 

For the first time, Gong’s working with his counterparts in 10 other counties. Their goal is to assure voters of the security behind elections and fight misinformation. "Deliver key messages that we can really educate the voters about because we do understand that democracy is fragile, it took a hit in 2020, and we want to do what we can to build trust in elections," said Gong. 

After elections officials received numerous threats in 2020, driven by disinformation, several states including California are now exploring laws to further protect election workers. "We’re members of the community, we live and work alongside of folks," said Gong. "Our kids go to the same high schools, we’re members of the community as well." 

The coalition of Bay Area elections officials have created a website focused on ensuring public trust, and sharing information with the community. They’re sending out press releases focused on issues of redistricting, vote-by-mail, voting systems and canvasing or the process in which ballots are counted. They’re also collaborating on best practices. "Let me learn a little about what you’re doing, let me share with you what I’m doing and let’s learn from each other and improve our processes even more so," said Gong. 

As part of assuring every vote-by-mail ballot is checked and counted securely, Gong showed off Contra Costa’s newest technology—a high-tech processing machine that’s ready for the more than half-a-million ballots they’re expecting. "These are all things that have been evolving over 20 years to really have a robust system of vote-by-mail voting for voters, a sound checks and balances process," said Gong. 

The coalition is also letting voters know they have plenty of options to vote in-person. These elections officials hoping this joint, concerted effort will help ensure public trust in the process and they even have a pop culture moniker so people will remember their message. "We like to refer to us as the B.A.E., in terms of ‘before anyone else’, come to your elections officials with any questions about elections."