RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 general election will be going out to all registered voters in Riverside County in just under five weeks, but Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer said Tuesday that in-person voting will still be permitted with precautions.
“We’re encouraging all voters to fill out their vote-by-mail ballots and only go to the `vote centers’ if they need assistance,” Spencer said. “Voters who never received a ballot, made a mistake and voided their ballot, or who may need audio or bilingual help — those are the voters we would like to see at the vote centers.”
She further noted that individuals who choose to vote in person are not required to wear a mask. Federal law prohibits interference with exercising civic rights except under specific conditions. However, social distancing and sanitation protocols will be enforced, the registrar said.
According to Spencer, an executive order by the governor and additional action by the Legislature in response to the coronavirus pandemic requires the Office of the Registrar of Voters to make absentee ballots available to all of the roughly 1.2 million registered voters in the county.
In-person voting must still be available, though, and the county will operate 120 vote centers, beginning Oct. 31. The centers are analogous to polling stations. Additionally, 80 vote-by-mail ballot drop-off locations will be open three to four weeks ahead of election day, according to Spencer.
The drop-off sites include libraries, senior centers, community centers, municipal and county offices, where registrar staff will routinely retrieve ballots deposited into secure receptacles, Spencer said.
She said the California Secretary of State’s Office has established a new “ballot trax” system that allows voters to confirm that their mail-in ballots have been processed. More information will be available on the voting guides that the county will begin distributing via mail later this month. Absentee ballots will be sent starting Oct. 5, according to Spencer.
Because of the temporary regulatory changes under California’s state of emergency, Spencer said mail-in ballots will still be counted if they’re received within 17 days of election day. The previous deadline was three days after election day.
All ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3, she said.