The last day of voting for the general election is creeping up, and due to the pandemic, misinformation and fires in California, this election is unlike any other.
As of Thursday, nearly 9 million ballots have been cast in California between drop boxes, mail-in ballots, and in-person voting.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla joined CapRadio’s Insight to talk about poll observers, what to expect when voting in-person and the unauthorized California state GOP’s ballot boxes. He advised Californians not to think of Tuesday as Election Day.
"Think of Tuesday, November 3 as the last day to vote," Padilla said. "With so many options to voting early, by mail or in person, we're really encouraging people to vote early, if they can, and avoid those lines."
Voters can mail out their ballot on the last day of voting, Nov. 3, but it must be postmarked by that day. To ensure that, voters are recommended to either take it to a post office, or drop it in a blue mailbox. If dropping it in a blue mailbox, the voter should pay attention to what time the collection is at. If the pick-up time has passed, voters should find another location or drop it off at a post office.
California voters with questions, concerns, or anything related to voting, can call (800)-345-VOTE (8683).
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On President Trump’s claim that people can change their vote if they vote early
We’ve got a few phone calls [from voters in the state asking about this] to that effect. But, by and large, I think most people know the rules in California. Once you’ve cast your ballot, that’s it. You can’t vote twice, of course, but to be honest, I don’t see a lot of people changing their mind[s] in many contexts. Most folks have their mind made up for some time now.
So the good news is it’s both voter registration that is through the roof, and if you haven’t registered to vote, if you missed last week’s deadline, you can still show up and do it in person at any in-person voting location.
Early ballot returns are way up as well. Nearly 9 million ballots [have been returned], between those vote-by-mail ballots that have been returned and some of the in-person voting locations throughout the state. So all signs point to a big, big turnout this year.
On poll observers and what is allowed
Election observation is legal in California. It is allowed, but it is only that, election observation. We also have a voters’ bill of rights, which includes the right of any voter to be able to cast their ballot free of any harassment or intimidation.
So if folks that are out there observing the polls or “poll watching,” they have to keep a distance and not interfere in any way, shape or form. Not just with an individual voter, but the general administration of the election. That’s the job of poll workers and supervisors in every in-person voting location.
So is poll watching or observing allowed? Yes, but not in any way that’s going to lead to harassment, intimidation or interference of any type. Folks who observe or experience something are welcome to call our voter hotline to report it at 1-800-345-VOTE, and we’ll respond accordingly.
On what a voter can expect at a vote center in regards to safety protocols
The in-person voting experience is also a little bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So the best example I can point to is, we can’t go to the grocery store the same way anymore, and neither will the voting in-person experience be the same.
Bring your masks. Expect the signage and physical distancing. Poll workers [will] also [be] outfitted with PPE, face shields, gloves, etc. ... hand sanitizer available for everybody. The voting equipment is wiped down before and after every voter. We’re implementing all measures to keep voters and election workers safe.
But it may take another minute or two between voters, so another reason to vote early and not risk having to wait in line or wait longer than you should on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
On the California GOP’s unauthorized ballot drop boxes
A few weeks ago … it was brought to our attention [that] some problematic and frankly misleading drop boxes that were not installed by counties, they were not authorized, they were not official, but they were labeled as official ballot drop boxes.
They’re problematic for a number of reasons. Official drop boxes, only counties are authorized to install, and we know both exactly who is retrieving the ballots and how frequently.
[With] unauthorized boxes, we don’t know who’s collecting the ballots, and we can’t assure voters that those ballots made it all the way to the county. So we did issue cease and desist orders through the attorney general. The good news is those boxes seem like they have been removed, so that’s good.
But there was additional information we needed to obtain. How many boxes, how many ballots, were they all returned to counties, et cetera. And the state Republican Party has not complied with all aspects of this cease and desist order, so that cease and desist became subpoenas for that information. Those were not complied with. I know the attorney general has gone to court, so it’s both an ongoing investigation and an ongoing legal matter.
On collecting and submitting ballots for other voters
Is ballot collection allowed in the state of California? Yes. Voters have multiple options for how to return their ballot. California law does empower voters if they need assistance in returning their ballot to choose who they trust to assist them. But that person assisting the voter must also add their name, their signature, and their relationship to the voter to the outside of the envelope to provide, what we call, a chain of custody.
That’s what was lost with these misleading, deceiving ballot drop boxes, the voter did not know who it was they were turning their ballot over to. And so the good news is [that it] appears those boxes are now gone. The Republican Party is more than welcome to continue the ballot collection, but it must be consistent with what state law requires.
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