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inewsource Answers Questions For Voters On 2020 Election Rules

A voter in City Heights fills out a ballot at the City Heights/Weingart Libra...

Photo by Zoë Meyers / inewsource

Above: A voter in City Heights fills out a ballot at the City Heights/Weingart Library on June 5, 2018.

Voting in this year’s Nov. 3 election may be a little intimidating.

At the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, it became clear our election process would take a hit. As if the pressures of coming to a decision on all the candidates and propositions weren’t enough, now voters have to confront all sorts of new procedural hurdles designed to keep them safe from the coronavirus.

That’s why inewsource has made voter education a priority this year, including answering questions you send our way.

Have a question you don’t see answered below? Email vote@inewsource.org. You can also check out our voter guide to all the changes.

Q: How can I tell whether the special drop boxes in the local libraries and other locations are legitimate?

A: Any drop boxes at local libraries are indeed legitimate. You can tell this because the county registrar’s office has an official list of all its ballot drop-off locations, many of which are public libraries.

So far, there have been no reports in San Diego County of non-official drop-off locations, like those that have been set up by the state Republican Party in other parts of the state. Also, if you’re at all concerned about your ballot getting to the registrar’s office, you can sign up for notifications about your ballot’s status on this state-run site. It will send you texts and emails, including when your ballot reaches the registrar’s office and when it’s been counted.

Q: I saw something on the news about a new process for mail ballots. I don’t want to fill out anything, and I never vote by mail. I vote in person. Can I still do that?

A: Yes. You can still vote in person and don't need to fill out a mail ballot. Through Election Day, the registrar's office is open for in-person voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, Mondays through Fridays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 31, and Sunday, Nov. 1; and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

This year, the county’s 235 polling locations also will be open for in-person voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, through Monday, Nov. 2. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, they will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Before you head out, it’s a good idea to double check for a polling location near you. The county has significantly reduced the number of places to vote in person due to the pandemic. You can look it up on the county's website or check our voting guide. Each voter is assigned a polling location, but you can cast a ballot at any official location.

Q: I still haven't received my mail ballot. What should I do?

If you haven't received your ballot, call the county registrar’s office at (858) 565-5800.

Remember that you can still vote in person at the registrar’s office or a polling location from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 if you’re unable to cast your ballot by mail. You can also do so now at the county registrar’s office.

Q: I am currently outside of the country, and I'm afraid it'll take too long for me to mail in my ballot. What should I do?

A: Don’t worry. As long as your ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3, and received in the mail by the registrar’s office by Nov. 20, it is considered on time and will still be counted.

Also, if you’re at all concerned about your ballot getting to the registrar’s office, you can sign up for notifications about your ballot on this state-run site, which will send you texts and emails on the status of your ballot.

Q: Do my ballot results have to be sealed in a special envelope when I mail it in?

A: Yes. You should have received a yellow postage-paid envelope, along with your ballot and voting instructions. Sign and date the yellow envelope, seal your completed ballot inside and mail it to the registrar’s office or drop it off at one of the county’s 126 official drop-off locations. Click here for our searchable map with those sites.

Q: Why can't I send my ballot to the county over email?

A: California state law does not allow for voted ballots to be sent via email.

Q: What if I need a ride to the polls because I don't have a car?

A: MTS will be offering free rides on Election Day. Many polling locations are public facilities that are centrally located near public transportation.

App-based ride services Lyft and Uber will also be offering Election Day discounts to riders who need a way to the polls.

Q: What if there's a major disaster leading up to Election Day, like a wildfire?

A: The county registrar’s office would follow its ”continuity of operations plan” in the event of a disaster. It is designed to help maintain regular operations.

Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said his office has a relationship with SDG&E to ensure there is prompt communication about any emergencies, including wildfires, that could cause polling location closures or power outages. This kind of situation could potentially lead to the use of generators or the relocation of polling places.

Q: I used a black Sharpie to fill in my ballot, but it bled through to the back side. Should I obtain a new ballot?

A: Election officials say this is OK, and there is no need to worry. The bleed through does not affect the scanning of your ballot.

The registrar’s office asks voters to refrain from using red ink or glitter pens when marking their ballots. Voting materials should be filled out using a blue or black pen.

Q: What do I do if my vote-by-mail ballot is damaged? (i.e. The ballot is ripped, something was spilled on it, etc.)

A: Your safest bet would be to call the registrar’s office at (858) 565-5800 to request a new ballot and alert election workers yours is damaged. The registrar’s office will suspend the damaged ballot so it can no longer be cast and send a new one.

Call as soon as possible to ensure timely arrival of your new mail-in ballot.

If you’ve already submitted a damaged ballot, rest assured that even damaged ballots are reviewed by officials and your votes will be counted unless it is impossible to determine who or what you voted for. If a selection is undeterminable, the rest of your votes will still be counted.

Q: If voters are curious how many ballots have been received so far, where should they look for updates?

A: The Registrar of Voters Office is posting ballot updates on their Twitter account at @SDVote.

inewsource reporters Mary Plummer and Jill Castellano contributed to this story.

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