San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters successfully mailed out over 1.16 million ballots to voters in preparation for increased use of early voting methods during the 2020 Presidential General Election, and as of Friday, Oct. 16, 131,967 ballots had been returned through ballot drop-off boxes or the mail.
The county registrar gave an update on its efforts to enable and promote a variety of voting methods during the coronavirus pandemic during an online media conference on Monday, Oct. 19.
According to County Registrar Bob Page, during the coronavirus pandemic and state orders that every registered voter receive a mail-in ballot, the county has seen increased interest in early voting. Mail-in ballots need to be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the registrar by Nov. 20. (Certification deadline for the election is Dec. 1.)
The registrar submitted more than 1.08 million ballots to the U.S. Postal Service by the Oct. 5 deadline. An additional 30,524 ballots for newly registered voters were issued between Oct. 5 and Oct. 16. There were no reported widespread delays with the mailed ballots, Page said.
The nearly 132,000 ballots returned as of Oct. 16 account for an 11.98 percent voter turnout. To put this into perspective, Page shared that at this stage before Election Day during the 2016 Presidential General Election, just 9,720 voted ballots had been returned, a turnout of 1.13 percent.
“We are seeing an increased interest in early voting this election, but we cannot say that that will necessarily translate into overall higher voter turnout,” Page said.
More than 22,433 of the returned ballots were submitted through ballot drop-off boxes, of which there are 73 countywide and two within the city of Highland. Highland’s ballot boxes are at Highland City Hall, 27215 Base Line, and Highland Sam J. Racadio Library and Environmental Center, 7863 Central Ave.
While the registrar is required to empty the boxes every four days, due to their increased use, the county has been picking up ballots every two days.
“While we are mailing everyone a ballot we are not telling them how to vote it,” Page said, highlighting that the registrar has taken steps to ensure residents have safe options for voting by mail, ballot drop off and in person.
In-person voting began with early voting available locally at the San Bernardino County Registrar, 777 E. Rialto Ave., San Bernardino, beginning Oct. 5 and at San Bernardino International Airport Domestic Terminal, 105 N. Leland Norton Way, San Bernardino, Oct. 26 to Oct. 30. Early in-person voting will be available at these locations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A total of 210 polling places have been arranged throughout the county for in-person voting. According to Page, this is double what was required by the state’s orders concerning elections during coronavirus safety and social distancing measures.
To help prevent crowding at polling places, in-person voting has been extended to four days, Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. Polling places will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Voters are encouraged to vote early to spread the voting across all the available days.
Page added that, even without coronavirus procedures, presidential elections typically have a larger turnout and some waiting at polling places. This year time spent at polling places will likely be lengthened due to additional cleaning procedures and social distancing.
All voters are able to track their ballots through the Secretary of the State’s Where’s My Ballot program, through which voters can sign up to receive phone calls, emails or texts on the progress of their ballots. To sign up for Where’s My Ballot, visit WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov.
The Secretary of State reported that, as of Thursday, Oct. 5, more than 2 million California voters have signed up to use the ballot tracking system.
Page shared that the Secretary of State’s program did have an issue, in the first week, during which approximately 5,000 voters with ballots “in review” were not notified that their ballots had been received. This error was caught and corrected over the weekend.
Page, who intentionally sent his ballot without a signature to test his staff and the system, was among the voters not notified. He was eventually notified early Saturday morning.
According to Page, of the ballots received as of Tuesday, 95 percent are eligible to be counted. The remaining 5 percent are either still being processed, being reviewed or have been challenged.
Ballots will be reviewed and possibly challenged for a number of reasons including, missing or mismatched signature, mismatched address, multiple ballots from one voter, ballot from a voter who moved or is possibly diseased.
According to the California VoteCal voter registration database, as of Sunday, Oct. 18, 5,034 “questionable ballots” were reported within the county. Of those, there were 4,542 “likely moved/died” ballots, 98 “likely deceased” (died a number of years ago) ballots and 394 “likely duplicate” ballots reported.
Page also shared that while Los Angeles County reported numerous unofficial ballot boxes San Bernardino County only received two such reports, one of which was confirmed. Both were in the Chino Valley area.
Those cases were handed over to the office of the Secretary of State, which is responsible for investigations and enforcement of election laws.