A number of satellite offices, drop-off boxes and drive-thru options are popping up in Turlock throughout the course of October and into November to ensure that every ballot is counted come election day.
For the first time ever, all registered voters in Stanislaus County will receive their ballot in the mail for the upcoming election on Nov. 3 following legislation signed in June by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Assembly Bill 860 requires all California counties to send a ballot to eligible voters in advance of the general election. Voting by mail is nothing new in Stanislaus County, where about 77 percent of registered voters already cast their ballots by mail. Stanislaus County was also the first county in California to ever vote by mail, thanks to a pilot project authorized in a bill passed by the 1993 Legislature and signed into law by then-governor Pete Wilson.
During an interview with the Journal in August, Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Donna Linder said that jumping from 77 percent to 100 percent of voters participating in the election by mail won’t sway affect the results or its process, which has consistently remained secure throughout the years.
“I think voting by mail is impacting the election more because of the social media attention on it,” Linder said, pointing out that several states already vote only by mail, like Washington, Colorado and Oregon. “There was kind of a push for our state to move to vote by mail years ago. Stanislaus County just has not done it yet, so it’s just different for some of our voters.”
While every registered voter in Stanislaus County will receive a postage-paid ballot in their mailboxes this year, they do not have to turn it in by using the postal system. In an upgrade from the four satellite offices set up during the March primary election, there will be one voting center for every 10,000 voters where those who don’t want to send in their ballots can drop them off. Voters can also receive device or language assistance at these locations, or replace a misplaced ballot.
Satellite office locations in Turlock include the Assyrian American Civic Club (2618 N Golden State Blvd.), Stanislaus County Fairgrounds (900 N Broadway Bldg. E7), Ten Pin Fun Center (3700 Countryside Dr.) and Turlock CSA Epic Center (275 3rd St.). In Denair, a satellite office will be located at the Denair Community Center (3850 N. Gratton Rd.) and Keyes residents can visit a satellite office at the Keyes Community Center (5506 Jennie Ave.).
Satellite offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.
In addition, the County has worked with a variety of locations to allow for indoor, outdoor and curbside drop boxes where ballots can also be placed. These drop boxes will be in plain sight of the business where they are located and contain bags that are sealed when the drop box is opened by elections staff.
In Turlock, indoor ballot drop boxes will be located at Turlock City Hall (156 S Broadway), Turlock CSA South County Service Center (1310 W Main St.), Save Mart (2595 Geer Rd.) and FoodMaxx (1845 Countryside Dr.). There are no indoor or outdoor drop boxes in Keyes or Denair, nor are there outdoor drop boxes in Turlock. There are a couple of curbside ballot drop off locations in Turlock, however, at Stanislaus State (1 University Circle) and the Turlock Silvercrest Senior Residence (865 Lander Ave.).
Indoor ballot drop box locations are open beginning Oct. 5. Curbside ballot drop-off locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 2 and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.
Linder stated that employees will be available to assist voters at the satellite offices and responsibly deliver ballots from the boxes to the Elections Office.
“The ballots are never left alone with just one person,” Linder said. “In essence, it goes directly from the voter’s hands to our hands. There’s no middle man.”
Ballots dropped off at the satellite offices are not mailed to the county Elections Office, but are picked up by staff who always travel together, two at a time. This ensures no one is ever left alone with the ballots, and there is also a chain of custody process in place so that Linder can see who the ballots were with at any given time.
Once a ballot is received by the Elections Office, whether it be through the mail or through a drop off, every signature on every envelope is checked to ensure it matches the handwriting on the voter’s registration.
“It’s a very intensive process that we have perfected over the years of developing a more hearty vote-by-mail system,” Linder said.