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County To Study ‘Vote Centers’ To Replace Polling Places

A polling sign at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Nov. 6, 2018.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: A polling sign at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Nov. 6, 2018.

San Diego County could join a growing group of counties in the state that are creating vote centers. The centers would eventually replace the nearly 1,600 polling stations in the county.

The idea of creating vote centers to replace polling stations is nothing new. Five-counties in California have already done it.

On Tuesday, four out of five San Diego County Supervisors voted to do a feasibility study on the matter.

The proposal from Supervisor Nathan Fletcher would establish several vote centers around the county. If the proposal is ultimately approved, the vote centers would function alongside the county’s 1,600 polling places for the 2020 election. They would replace the polling stations in time for the election in 2022.

So what is a vote center? Think of it as a mini-version of the Registrar of Voters' office where a whole host of services are available. Fletcher said at the heart of his proposal is simply making it easier for people to vote.

“A vote center could be open for a week, two weeks, three weeks before the election and folks from any part of the county could go to any vote center. They could register to vote, they could get help with translation services, or they could cast a ballot and so it really is just making it easier to participate in democracy and in our elections," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said other counties that have gone to vote centers have experienced an increase in voter turnout and some minor cost-saving with the elimination of all those polling places. Currently, more than 70% of San Diego County residents vote by mail.

The feasibility study is scheduled to be complete in four months. It will then go back before the supervisors for a vote.

By Reporter John Carroll

A county feasibility study will determine whether Vote Centers will be in San Diego's future.

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