The presidential general election on Nov. 4 is quickly approaching, and election officials around the country are busy preparing for a voter turnout that likely will be unprecedented in size. San Luis Obispo County is completing the ballot layout and finalizing the sample ballot, which contains information about local contests and measures, in preparation for printing.
Poll worker recruitment continues, and the final touches are being put on the training that will ensure that these Election Day workers are fully aware of the complex procedures and security precautions that ensure that every eligible voter can cast a ballot and that every vote will be counted.
Staff is preparing for the extensive voting system, testing and reviewing all of the checks and balances that protect the integrity of the election by ensuring it is safe from unwarranted attacks and that the chain of custody for ballots and counting equipment is properly executed.
Yet no matter how much preparation takes place, a successful election also depends on the informed participation of the voters. This doesn’t mean just showing up on Election Day to vote, but also taking the responsibility to register and, if you are already a registered voter in San Luis Obispo County, to update any changes to your residence or mailing address.
Sept. 5 marks just 60 days until the election, and voter registration activity is beginning to gather steam. You may be thinking, “Why should I register so early when the election is not until November?” While it is true that you can legally register to vote as late as only 15 days before the election, the timing of your registration will determine how much official ballot information you receive in the mail and how quickly the elections office can get that information to you.
Voters fall into three distinct categories, depending on the timing of their registration:
• Early Informed Voters are those who have registered at least 60 days before the election—Sept. 5 for the upcoming election. If you register by this date, your voter record is on the first list of names sent to the Secretary of State and to the county’s printer. As part of this list, you will be among the first to receive the State Voter Information Guide, which contains the state ballot propositions and is mailed between 40 and 21 days before the election. You will also be the first to receive the County Sample Ballot Pamphlet, which contains information on local candidates and ballot measures and is mailed between 40 and 30 days before the election.
• Informed Voters are registered by 29 days before the election—Oct. 6 for this election. If you register by this date, you will receive the State Voter Information Guide and the County Sample Ballot, but they will not be mailed until between 15 and 10 days before the election.
• Voters are those who wait to register until close to the deadline of 15 days before the election—Oct. 20 for the upcoming election. However, if you are among this group, you will NOT receive any of the official publications in the mail. You will only be sent a notification card that contains your polling place location and information on where to obtain a copy of the official information, including a website.
If you are already a registered voter, but have moved, it is equally important that you change the address on your voter record by these same deadlines, especially if you are one of the more than 65,000 permanent vote-by-mail voters whose ballots will be automatically mailed beginning Oct. 6. If your address change is processed before Sept. 5, your election materials will be sent to the correct address, you will receive them early, and the county will not incur the cost of a second mailing.
Many of us have a tendency to procrastinate, but as we get closer to any election, the date by which you are registered has an impact on the timing and extent of official election material you will receive. There are contests in six cities, numerous school districts, and special districts in San Luis Obispo County, as well as the presidential contest and contests for Congressional representatives, State Senate, and Assembly. In addition, there are currently 12 state propositions, and the legislature is still debating adding additional measures. Given the importance and complexity of the many ballot issues and candidate races, access to information and an opportunity to evaluate the issues can be critical to making good decisions. So ask yourself: “What kind of voter do I want to be?” and register early.
Voter registration forms are available at libraries, post offices, city clerks’ offices, and banks—or by calling 781-5228—and can be used for a first-time registration or to change a voter’s address or name. A registration card can be also found on-line at www.ss.ca.gov.
Julie Rodewald is the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder. Send comments to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.