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Supervisor Fletcher Seeks to Expand Voting Access in San Diego County

07/08/19

Today, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, joined by the League of Women Voters, announced a proposal to expand voting opportunities in San Diego County by piloting a ‘vote center model’ for the 2020 primary and general elections. He introduced the proposal in front of the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters with the League of Women Voters of San Diego, Alliance San Diego, and Engage San Diego. The Board of Supervisors will vote on his proposal Tuesday during the regularly scheduled 9 a.m. meeting.

During the press conference Supervisor Fletcher said, “We should do everything possible to increase access to the ballot and voter participation in our elections. Operating vote centers provide voters with not only more options for casting a ballot but importantly, more flexible and convenient options for casting their ballot.”

Vote centers are similar to traditional polling locations in that a voter can cast a ballot in person, but unlike a traditional polling center, voter centers are open multiple days before the election and voters from any part of the county can cast a ballot at any vote center. Voters are also provided with additional service and resources such as registering to vote, language assistance and translation materials and requesting replacement ballots. Under a vote center model, all voters are automatically mailed a ballot which they can return by mail, drop off at any designated drop-off location or county vote center, or they can choose to cast a new ballot at the vote center itself. Vote centers are open for multiple days in advance of Election Day including Election Day, giving voters additional time to cast a ballot in person. These changes further reduce barriers to voting.

In a study done by University of California San Diego, five counties (Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo) adopted the vote center model for the 2018 election, and on average, voter turnout increased by 4 percent during the 2018 primary, and 3 percent in the 2018 general, as compared with the 2014 election cycle. An additional eight counties (Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Orange, and Santa Clara) will be implementing vote centers for the 2020 election and beyond, representing half of the state’s voters.

“Providing vote centers throughout the community can help drive turnout,” said Lori Thiel, the President of the League of Women Voters of San Diego. “Participation in democracy is a fundamental right outlined in the Constitution, and we have a stronger, more engaged electorate when everyone has the right – and ability – to vote. I want to thank Supervisor Fletcher for bringing this to the Board. We hope they support his proposal.”

Vote centers were authorized in 2016 under Senate Bill (SB) 450, California Voter’s Choice Act.

Voting for The Proposal

The Board of Supervisors are being asked by Supervisor Fletcher to vote Tuesday to support directing the Chief Administrative Officer to direct staff to:

●        Conduct a vote center model feasibility study, which will include a plan to establish pilot vote centers for the 2020 election;

●        Do an assessment of costs and benefits;

●        Develop an implementation strategy;

●        Create an outreach and education campaign; and

●        Identify any State legislative changes that may be needed.

If approved, the results of the feasibility study will be presented to the Board in November.