What to Know About Mail-In Voting in San Diego County

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters will be sending postcards to every local registered voter this week with information on what to expect during the 2020 Presidential Election

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Every one of San Diego County's 1.8 million-plus registered voters will receive a ballot for the 2020 Presidential Election in the mail this year following an executive order signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and local voting officials want residents to know what to expect.

This November 3, Election Day, the country will likely still be dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic -- which requires social distancing and prohibits gatherings.

Due to safety concerns, according to Newsom, he signed orders to ensure every active voter is able to vote from their own home, though there are still options to vote in person.

Here's what the Registrar's Office wants you to know about voting by mail:

Do I need to do anything to receive my mail-in ballot?

Nope! All registered voters will be getting a vote-by-mail ballot this year, so there is nothing else you need to do. You can track your ballot to find out when it will arrive with the new "Where's My Ballot" tool. Sign up at sdvote.com.

The county does encourage, as they do every year, all voters to check their registration information ahead of the election to ensure all your information is up to date; that way, you can ensure you'll receive your ballot.

If you've recently moved or changed your name, you will need to re-register to vote. Be sure to do that early to avoid any ballot errors.

And, of course, if you've never voted before, you'll need to register. You can do that here (Psst, it takes less than two minutes) or by mail until Oct. 19. After that, you can still register to vote in person on Election Day and still vote in the 2020 Election.

When will I get my mail-in ballot and how long do I have to submit?

Ballots will start being delivered the week of Oct. 5, giving voters nearly a month to fill out their ballot and return it to the Registrar's Office. Mail-in ballots can be returned until Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020. Know the longer you take to mail it in, the longer it will take for it to be counted, but rest assured it will be counted.

Do I have to vote by mail in San Diego County? Where can I drop off my ballot?

You don't have to, but it's encouraged amid the pandemic. There will be four days for those who need to vote in-person to do so -- from Oct. 31 through Election Day on Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Be sure to bring your ballot if you choose this option.

In-person voters will find fewer polling places this year, and your usual polling location will most likely not be there.

Here's a list of this year's official polling locations. One will be assigned to you but it may be farther than usual. Be sure to be prepared if this is your choice, the county says.

In-person voters can even vote as early as Oct. 5 at the Registrar's Office located at 5600 Overland Ave., San Diego. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"The Registrar especially encourages older adults and people with underlying medical conditions to avoid long lines and crowded polling places by voting early," the agency said.

On Election Day, all polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Can the county handle 1.8M mail-in voters?

The Registrar's Office said nearly 75% of their registered voters are already signed up to receive vote-by-mail ballots. So the office feels equipped to handle the increase.

The registrar's office also says voting by mail "is simple, safer and secure."

How do I ensure my vote gets counted?

NBC News reports more than 102,000 ballots were rejected in California during the March Primary and most were due to human error, not election meddling.

The two main reasons a ballot may be rejected is because there is no signature on the back of the ballot envelope or had a postmarked date after the election. Make sure you've submitted your ballot early and with a signature on the back for your vote to be counted.

Once you've submitted your ballot, either by mail or by dropping it off at one of the county's secure ballot drop-off locations, you can track the status of your ballot. To do so, sign up for "Where's My Ballot" at sdvote.com.

What Else to Know:

In signing the executive order, Newsom made California the first state in the U.S. to provide mail-in ballots to all voters. Since, Nevada, Vermont and several other states have moved to adopt similar policies.

But Republicans have pushed back against the order and several groups, including one backed by former congressman and current political contender Darrell Issa, have sued.

The suit filed by Issa and the conservative group Judicial Watch is inefficient. They argue that the order forces politicians to “reevaluate his electoral strategy in order to campaign” because they are "no longer running under an electoral system established under California law."

Secretary of State Steve Padilla responded to the complaint by calling it a "despicable" attempt to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to justify voter suppression.

The Republican National Committee also sued arguing that the move was illegal.

President Donald Trump has criticized the practice for months and even suggested this week that he could use an executive order to regulate mail-in voting, which would not be possible since elections are administered by the states with oversight from Congress, according to an NBC News Fact Check.

Despite the legal battles, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters has long been preparing for the 2020 Presidential Election and said they are committed to ensuring their voters can vote in a safe, yet accessible, manner, in whatever form that may be.

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