3 big changes coming to the way you vote in Fresno County this year

Local News
May 04 2021 05:30 pm

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – This year, voters in Fresno County can expect to see some significant changes when it comes to casting their ballots starting in March. 

In 2016, Californians did not get to vote until June, when the majority of other states had already voted in the primaries. That date has been bumped up to March 3 — Super Tuesday.

In addition, Fresno County is one of several in California that decided to adopt the Voter’s Choice Act last year, bringing changes that are supposed to make voting easier. 

Here are three big changes coming to our election:

1. Everyone will receive a ballot by mail

Before, voters would have to request a mail-in ballot. Now, every registered voter in Fresno County will receive one in the mail whether they asked for one or not.

They’ll be mailed out on Feb. 3, Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth said. 

“Right there, the system is already flexible because you’re going to have it on your kitchen table 29 days in advance of the election,” Orth said. “You can take your time, you can vote on whatever you want and there are multiple ways to return your ballot.”

In the past, if someone went to a polling station and told a poll worker they did not have their mail-in ballot, the worker would hand them a provisional ballot. In the 2016 election, there was speculation that those ballots did not really count. 

However, Orth said this year, if someone were to lose their ballot and go into a vote center, they have new technology that helps them determine if someone has voted yet. If it indicates the person has not voted yet, they’ll hand them another regular ballot, not a provisional one like they were in the past.

“What happens is once you provide your name and address to us and we look you up in the voter rolls, the vote centers will be in connection with our main system here and the Secretary of State system,” Orth said. “We’ll be able to make sure we have the most current information at our fingertips.”

To cast a mail-in ballot, voters can:

  1. Mail it back. (A stamp isn’t required.)
  2. Drop it off at one of the 43 drop boxes.
  3. Drop it off at a vote center.

Orth said it’s important to remember to seal the ballot in the envelope and sign it. 

2. New vote centers to cast your vote

This year, voters will have 53 different places they can cast their vote during the primary election. They’re called vote centers. 

In the past, registered voters would get assigned a polling station and they would have to go to that specified location to cast their vote.

Now, voters can go to any one of the 53 vote centers.

“A lot of new technology out there, wherever you go, I can print your ballot for you,” Orth said.

All 53 vote centers will be open for at least four days: Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday — which the day of the election. All of them will have Spanish-language assistance. Some have assistance in additional languages. Ten of those centers will be open for 11 days.

Those include:

  • Clovis City Utility Building – 1033 5th St.
  • Betty Rodriguez Library – 3040 N Cedar Ave.
    • Hmong language assistance
  • West Fresno Regional/Library Building – 142 E. California Ave.
    • Hmong language assistance
  • Woodward Park Regional Library – 944 E. Perrin Ave.
    • Chinese & Korean language assistance
  • Central California Blood Center Jenny Eller Donor Center – 4343 W. Herndon Ave.
    • Punjabi language assistance
  • Sunnyside Library – 5566 E. Kings Canyon Rd.
    • Hmong & Punjabi language assistance
  • Ted C Wills Community Center – 770 N. San Pablo Ave.
    • Hmong & Khmer language assistance
  • Sanger Community Center – 730 Recreation Ave.
  • Leo Cantu Community Center – 22058 Railroad St.
  • Selma Neighborhood Resource Center – 1940 E. Front St. Suite 102
    • Punjabi language assistance

Those 10 vote centers will be open from Feb. 22 to March 3. 

“When we had a polling center, you had one day and 13 hours to vote. Now, you have a minimum of four days, in some cases, 11 days, and 93 hours to vote. So I think right there, it provides a lot of flexibility,” Orth said. 

She said she encourages people to vote early rather than the day of the primaries to avoid long lines.

3. New touch-screen technology

Fresno County did not get rid of their paper ballots, but it did add technology as another way to vote in these vote centers. 

They’re called touch-screen marking devices, Orth said. 

Voters have the ability to use their fingers to cast their votes on a screen and have multiple options to make it easier for them. 

For example, people can increase fonts if they have trouble seeing, use earphones, use a controller with buttons that allow them to scroll through options and can change contrast colors to make it easier on the eye. 

“What we’re hearing from other counties is that the touch-screen voting is well received by everyone, it’s a little bit quicker probably and so people are using that also,” Orth said. 

Once someone has completed choosing their options, the machine will print a paper with every choice they made. They then put that in the ballot tabulator. 

Orth said this is also meant to decrease the length of lines. 

“Every vote center will have both options and probably depending upon the line of each one would be a good way to decide,” she said. 

Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo counties adopted the Voter’s Choice Act for the 2018 elections. 

For the 2020 elections, 10 more counties adopted it, including Fresno and Mariposa counties.

In Fresno County during the 2016 primary election, there was a 40.78% voter turnout.

Orth said the hope is that these changes increase the voter turnout.

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