Well into preparations for the June 5 Primary Election under the new Voters Choice Act (SB 450), which will streamline and simplify the voting process, Madera County Clerk-Recorder & Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez and her staff hope the new system will increase voter turn-out.
According to Martinez, unlike the old model that provided just one day to vote, the new model will allow voters to cast their ballots during an 11-day period beginning May 26, including weekends, in Oakhurst at State Center Community College.
On June 2, a second vote center will open for a 4-day period in Coarsegold at Oak Creek Senior Living Community. In addition to the two voter centers, a secure ballot drop box will be available to voters from May 8 through Election Day, located inside Grocery Outlet in Oakhurst.
“We want people to be excited about all the improvements this new system will bring to Madera County,” Martinez said. “We hope that by offering expanded services and more choices we will increase voter participation throughout Madera County.”
The schedules for the three secure and accessible locations in Eastern Madera County are:
☆ Ballot Drop Box - Oakhurst Grocery Outlet, 40301 Junction Drive: Open 7 a.m. - 9 p.m., May 8 - June 4. On Election Day, June 5, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
☆ Vote Center - State Center Community College: Oakhurst Community College: Road 426 and Civic Circle Drive: Open from 8 a.m., May 26 - June 4. On Election Day, June 5, rcyion, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
☆ Vote Center - Coarsegold Oak Creek Senior Living Clubhouse, 46041 Road 415: Open 8 a.m - 5 p.m. June 2 - 4. On Election Day , June 5, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Martinez explained that the new system will provide the ability to vote in-person utilizing new ballot marking machines. The machines will print a paper ballot for review before the voter deposits the ballot in the ballot box. Voters who prefer to vote on a traditional paper ballot will still be able to.
All registered voters will receive Vote-By-Mail ballot
All 54,000 registered voters in the county will be receiving a postcard from the elections department explaining the new, user-friendly system in detail. The cards are scheduled to be mailed April 25.
Official ballot packets, which will include a county Voter Information Guide, are scheduled to be mailed scheduled to be mailed to all county registered voters on May 7.
In the June 2014 primary, countywide voter turn-out was just 36.4%. Although hesitant to predict a turn-out percentage this June, Martinez is hopeful more people will vote due to the new system being so user-friendly, and because all registered voters in the county will receive a Vote-By-Mail ballot. In the past only voters who requested a Vote-By-Mail ballot received one.
“It is our hope that many voters will take advantage of the convenience of a Vote-By-Mail ballot, especially those who may not have been otherwise so inclined to participate in the past,” Martines said.
Only 14 counties in the state were eligible to enact The Voters Choice Act in 2018, and Madera County is one of only five of the 14 counties who will have the changes in place and operational for the June election. All the remaining counties are planning to implement the new system for the 2020 elections.
The new system will allow Martinez to reduce the number of election day volunteers from about 350 people to 50.
“Our old voting system is nearly 30 years old,” explained Martinez. “While the current system has served all of us very well, it has gone beyond its useful life and we are at a point where it must be replaced.
The new system is still a paper based system. Paper based systems provide security and reliability as well as allow for a verifiable audit trail should there be any doubts about the validity of machine counting.
“It is important that we have a system that utilizes modern technology like high speed scanners and accessibility for those with limited mobility,” Martinez said. “However, at the same time I had to chose a system that provided the utmost confidence to voters that their votes are counted accurately every time. This system provides that confidence.”
During the last election, 4,458 out of 9,789 registered voters voted by mail, but that number is also expected grow because prior to this year, Vote-By-Mail Ballots were only mailed to people who requested them.
Details: (800) 435-0509, www.votemaderacounty.com.