About 900,000 eligible voters in Santa Clara County may be limited to vote-by-mail ballots in November if county leaders decide it’s unsafe to open voting centers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Voter’s Choice Act approved by the county Board of Supervisors last April ensured all residents received vote-by-mail ballots in the March 2020 primary. It also replaced traditional polling centers with Vote Centers, which may be unavailable during the presidential election.
Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said in a news release:
“At this point, because of the coronavirus outbreak there are no certainties about being able to vote.”
The supervisors are currently hosting their meetings online and approved Chavez’s proposal to consider the change on Tuesday. It includes “Emergency Ballot Delivery” for marginalized voters, including those who are in jail, hospitalized, disabled or confined to their homes for medical reasons.
It doesn’t include specific details on mail voting for homeless residents or those without a permanent address, who numbered at about 9,700 as of last year’s count.
Chavez said the move would have to be paired with an increase in voter outreach at county jails, nursing homes, and senior assisted living facilities. This may prove difficult if countywide shelter-in-place orders and social distancing continue through the fall.
The orders are currently in place throughout the Bay Area until May 3, and all non-essential travel is prohibited. County staff will return by May 19 with recommendations as well as legal and financial information about the potential switch to an all-mail election.
Chavez’s proposal says:
“While it is likely that the current conditions that exist as a result of the COVID-19 virus will alleviate by late summer when the November election begins to approach, it is important that the county make contingency plans related to voting.”
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