On Thursday, May 16, Tim Dupuis, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters (ROV), presented updates on the County’s election system, including newly purchased voting machines, high volume scanners for paper ballot counting in Oakland, and a plan to increase ballot drop boxes. The event was part of Livermore Indivisible’s 2019 Voter Engagement Series, held at Livermore Civic Center Library. Over 40 attendees heard directly from the director about election process.
Mr. Dupuis reported on updates to the Vote-by-Mail ballot. He showed a surge of permanent Vote-By-Mail (VBM) voters. Currently over 70% of Alameda County voters are permanent VBM voters. The figure is expected to increase to over 80% by 2020. Most VBM voters do not vote early. In 2018, 300,000 VBM voters dropped off ballots on election day. Dupuis stressed that early voting would be appreciated, since ballots can be scanned up to 11 days prior to election day. Then, as soon as the polls close, computers could quickly tally the votes.
Dupuis reported that due to the popularity of the ballot drop boxes, the County will increase the number of boxes from the current 13 to 27 by 2020. The audience confirmed its preference for drop boxes, as concern was raised over the delivery of ballots by postal service. Another benefit to the boxes is the County will not need to pay for the postage.
Dupuis informed the attendees of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ decision not to participate in the Voter’s Choice Act in 2020. The Board will closely watch the impacts to voter turn-out in participating counties. Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo counties are currently participating. A significant change under the Voter’s Choice Act is that traditional polling stations are replaced by vote centers. All voters would be mailed ballots 28 days before the election. Voters can either mail the ballot, drop it off at a ballot drop box, or visit any county vote center to vote in-person. A vote center model is slightly different from the current model with traditional polling places, since voters can utilize any vote center in the county, instead of just their assigned polling location.
One of the concerns raised at Dupuis’ presentation is access to vote centers under the Voter’s Choice Act. Starting 10 days before the election, through the Friday before election day, one vote center is required for every 50,000 registered voters. From the Saturday before election day through election day, one vote center is required per 10,000 voters. The concern would be that, under the Voter’s Choice Act, the number of vote centers in Alameda County would be approximately 1/10th of total current polling locations, which could disenfranchise voters without transportation. On the other hand, keeping vote centers open for 10 days before the election would create a longer period for voters to cast their ballots in person.
Other questions discussed included provisional ballots, voter purge, integrity of counting ballots, the signature confirmation process, and cross-party voting in the presidential primary.