Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Ballot tracking program, other options alleviate fear about mail-in voting

Williams Pioneer Publisher Lloyd Greed drops his vote-by-mail ballot for the Nov. 3 election into the recently installed drop box in front of the Colusa County Hall of Records, located at 546 Jay St., in Colusa, and will receive a text alert on his phone when his ballot is received – and counted.

Knowing your vote counts has never been easier – even if Colusa County voters return their ballots by mail.

The California Secretary of State is now offering a program called Where’s My Ballot?

The new program allows voters a way to receive notifications on the status of their vote-by-mail ballot every step of the way, said Colusa County Clerk Recorder Rose Gallo-Vasquez.

Colusa County now has 9,618 registered voters, up 520 new voters since the March primary, and the election office is gearing up to have the most ballots ever returned in the mail or dropped off in person.

“That’s quite an increase,” Gallo-Vasquez said.

Gallo Vasquez, the county’s chief election official, said while 73 percent of the county’s registered voters already vote by mail, the remainder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, should also have received a vote-by-mail ballot that was sent directly to them.

“It does not mean that it is a 100 percent vote by mail, it only means that we are sending everyone a vote-by-mail ballot during COVID-19 to give everyone the opportunity to have an alternative method to cast your vote, securely and safely from your own home, and not have to go to a polling place on Election Day and be exposed to long lines and that kind of thing,” Gallo-Vasquez said.

While polling places will still be open, the new Where’s My Ballot program could take the uneasiness that some voters may still have about returning their ballots by mail.

Powered by BallotTrax, Where’s My Ballot allows voters to sign up for alerts that will let them know their ballot has been received and counted.

Voters can sign-up at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to receive automatic email, text message, or voice notifications about their ballot.

“It is available in every county,” Gallo-Vasquez said.

Gallo-Vasquez said Where’s My Ballot is a new service that allows voters to have their ballots tracked when it is checked in to the election’s office, whether they returned it in the mail or dropped it off in person.

“We log them in and put them in our computer,” she said. “Once that process has happened, then that information will be available to you. That lets you know that we have received your ballot.”

Colusa County has also installed a 24-hour ballot drop box in front of the Hall of Records, located at 546 Jay St.

In addition to the drop box, the county plans to have at least one afternoon/evening “curbside” pickup of ballots before the election in each community: Stonyford, Maxwell, Arbuckle, Grimes, Princeton, and Williams.

“This will also help people who have reservations about sending their ballots through the postal service to be more comfortable,” Gallo-Vasquez said. “We will be in your community at least one time to give people the opportunity to hand deliver their ballot to us if they want to do that to avoid going to their polling place on Election Day.”

Postage is not required to return ballots by mail.

For those who still hold to the tradition of in-person voting, polling places will be open on Nov. 3 from 7 AM to 8 PM.

Voters are asked to bring their vote-by-mail ballot with them to surrender, which will make voting on Election Day quick and more efficient, officials said.

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