BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) —Voters have a lot of questions leading up to the elections. There are probably things you’ll realize the day-of that you wish you’d thought of sooner.
The Kern County Elections Office gave us the answers to some of the most commonly asked voter questions. Especially because of COVID-19 this year, a few things have changed with regard to voting in-person and the county expects more people to vote by mail. Here are the answers to some of the burning questions you may have.
Poll Sites and voting in-person:
Q. Will there be poll sites on Nov. 3?
A. Kern County will have the same number of poll sites in November as it did in the March Primary elections. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some locations have changed to allow for more personal space when voting.
You can confirm your polling site by going to KernVote.com. Click “voting,” then “go to a polling place,” and type in the address where you are registered.
Q. Will I need to do anything differently if I am voting in person in November?
A. People who want to vote in-person are strongly recommended to bring and ‘surrender’ their “mail-in ballot” to their polling site. If you forget to bring the ballot that was mailed to you, then you must vote provisionally at your polling place. This just means your vote will be counted last among the ballots after clerks check to ensure you didn’t also vote by mail.
Q. What precautions is the county taking at the polls in terms of COVID?
A. Masks are strongly encouraged, but not required. The county will have different rules for voters who refuse to wear masks to protect the poll workers and other voters. As a result, the voting process will probably take longer for those without masks.
The county says it will follow CDC guidelines for frequency of disinfecting surfaces, use of hand sanitizer, and physical distancing. It will also enforce physical distancing requirements and will prevent too many people inside a poll site at once. This could result in waiting in a line outside.
Vote by Mail:
The County will send all registered voters a vote-by-mail ballot this year. Ballots are mailed starting Oct. 5. If you’re already registered, you should receive your ballot within a few days after that. If you don’t receive your ballot by Oct. 16, you should contact the elections office.
Q. Will my ballot be counted if there are delays in mail delivery?
A. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before election day. This year, the election office must receive ballots by 17 days after the election (Nov. 20).
Q. I’m nervous about mailing delays. What should I do?
A. The elections office strongly encourages people to vote early. Aside from that, you can fill out the ballot mailed to you and drop it off at a secure drop box outside the County Administrative Building in Bakersfield. Ballots can be dropped off at any poll site on election day.
There also will be curbside drop-off sites on the last three Saturdays of October.
Here are the specific dates, times, and locations:
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 24, and 31 at the following locations:
– Bakersfield College (Haley St Entrance)
– Kern County Library Branches in:
– Arvin Kern River Valley Taft
– Delano Ridgecrest Tehachapi
– Frazier Park Rosamond Wasco
Q. How will I know if my mail ballot is counted?
A. There’s a new program called Ballot Trax that allows you to track your ballot from the mail to the ballot counting room. For more information go to vote.ca.gov.
Q. What are the reasons a ballot may not be counted?
A. A ballot may not be counted if:
1) It is postmarked after election day or received after Nov. 20.
2) The return envelope is missing the voter’s signature or the signature does not compare to
the signature on file at the election office. In this case the voter is notified and given an
opportunity to correct the deficiency so the ballot can be counted.
Q. With the anticipated increase in vote by mail voting in November, will the election office still be able to review every signature on the return envelopes?
A. The elections office says it’s prepared for the influx of vote by mail ballots. But they still encourage voters to vote early so their ballot can be counted before election day.
Q. What is the difference between absentee and vote by mail voting?
A. They are the same thing. The names vary depending on jurisdiction.
Q. Can someone else vote for me?
A. A voter can authorize anyone to return their ballot for them. But you must fill out the authorization section found on the outside of the ballot envelope.
Q. Will any of my deceased family members receive ballots?
A. The elections office receives a monthly file from the Department of Public Health of people who are deceased, and updates its voter database accordingly.
Q. How are election officials trained to verify my signature?
A. According to Mary Bedard, Kern County’s Auditor-Controller-County Clerk, all permanent employees receive signature recognition training sponsored by the Secretary of State and the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials.
The most recent training was April 2018. Senior staff often trains the newer election workers.
For the November election, the County will have software that scans and compares the signature on the ballot envelope to the one you registered with. If the software says it’s a mismatch, a senior employee will review it further. If the software approves the signature, a trained election worker will still look at it after. Any signatures they identify as possible mismatches will also be sent to a senior employee for further review.
Q. I’m confused about voting and I need help. Where can I go?
A. Satellite election offices are available for voter assistance. They all can accept a drop off mail ballot, and can help with things like replacing a lost or spoiled ballot, conditional voter registration, and language or accessibility issues.
Here are the dates, times and locations for those satellite offices:
- Tuesday Oct. 20 Noon – 6 p.m. Frazier Park Library
- Wednesday Oct. 21 Noon – 6 p.m. Wasco Library
- Thursday Oct. 22 Noon – 6 p.m. Arvin Library
- Friday Oct. 23 Noon — 6 p.m. Ridgecrest Library
- Tuesday Oct. 27 Noon – 6 p.m. Kern River Valley Library
- Wednesday Oct. 28 Noon – 6 p.m. Rosamond Library
- Thursday Oct. 29 Noon — 6 p.m. Delano Library
- Friday Oct. 30 Noon – 6 p.m. Ridgecrest Library
- The Election Office is also open by appointment only: Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm, October 26-29 from 5pm-7pm, October 31 from 8am-2pm, and November 3 from 7am-8pm
Q. What can I do now to get ready for the November election?
1) Voters can check and update their voter registration information by going to voterstatus.sos.ca.gov.
2) If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so at registertovote.ca.gov until Oct. 19, or you can call the election office at 661-868-3590 or 1-800-452-VOTE to request a registration form.
3) You can update your signature on file with the election office by going to KernVote.com/VotebyMail/Forms.
4) To apply to be a poll worker or learn more about it, go to KernVote.com