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Voting 2020: What residents need to know

(Friday, Oct. 16) With less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 election, voters are urged to forgo voting in person and to fill out and mail now the ballots they should have received in the U.S. mail.

“No good is going to come from waiting to vote. There could be an earthquake, an asteroid may hit, there could be power shutoffs, or you might get sick. No one knows what’s going to happen,” said Scott Konopasek, assistant county registrar of voters.

However, he did predict that the in-person voting experience will not be speedy. And that includes at Rossmoor’s lone polling place at the Event Center.

“Expect to stand in line just like at Trader Joe’s for exactly the same reasons,” said Konopasek.

Only so many people will be allowed in at one time, voters will be checked to make sure they’re wearing a mask, and they’ll have to use hand sanitizer beforehand, he said.

“Imagine the Event Center with the line out the door and into the parking lot.”

Konopasek speculated that the chance to vote for president will help spur people to vote.

Walnut Creek residents can also cast votes for local issues, including a countywide sales tax increase, three city council members, a BART director and Acalanes Union High School District board member.

Rossmoor voters can watch Contra Costa TV’s election forum for the Walnut Creek City Council race at https://youtu.be/islBOVE-MmY. Election forums for the Walnut Creek council and other local races throughout Contra Costa County can also be viewed on CCTV’s YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/contracostatelevision.

There are also 12 state propositions. These include a repeal of a ban on consideration of race and gender in hiring, complex rules on property taxation, whether gig workers are classified as employees or independent contractors, and new laws governing kidney-dialysis clinics.

A record number of voters have already made up their minds and mailed or dropped off their ballots.

“It’s been going gangbusters,” Konopasek said.

Election officials hope that trend continues. A week after voters could start sending in their ballots, some 100,000 had been received by the county elections office, he said. Walnut Creek and Danville have the highest return rate.

Of Contra Costa County’s 692,500 registered voters, 600,000, or 86 percent, are projected to cast ballots in the presidential election. And it’s expected that most of them will opt not to vote in person.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every registered voter was sent a ballot through U.S. mail and encouraged to vote ahead of Nov. 3.

Voting by mail is the safest voting option as it limits contact with others outside of a voter’s household, health officials said.

“We know some people feel it’s important to cast their votes in person, but with COVID around, the safest choice this election is to vote by mail,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, deputy health officer for the county.

“Voting by mail protects voters, poll workers and our volunteers by limiting personal contact,” said Clerk-Recorder Deborah Cooper, the county’s top elections official.

If you haven’t received your ballot, notify the county elections office at 925-335-7800 or at ballot@vote.ccc.us. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive at the elections office in Martinez by Nov. 20.

Voters can put their completed ballot in a prepaid envelope, sign and date it, and mail it or leave it at official drop boxes that are open 24 hours a day between now and 8 p.m. on Election Day.

There are 37 drop-off sites in the county. Walnut Creek has three – Grace Presbyterian Church, 2100 Tice Valley Blvd.; city hall, 1666 N. Main St.; and Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road.

Each steel drop box weighs 500 pounds and is bolted to the ground with special security bolts that need a key to loosen them, Konopasek said. They’re emptied daily by elections office employees.

There have been no confirmed reports of people putting up unauthorized drop-off ballot boxes in Contra Costa as there have been in other counties, he said.

Residents also have the option to vote in person ahead of Nov. 3 at 18 locations throughout the county. Closest to Rossmoor are Heather Farm Park, 301 N. San Carlos Drive, Walnut Creek, and the Veterans Memorial Building, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette.

Voting will be in tents just before Election Day on Oct. 30 and 31 and Nov. 2. Friday and Monday voting is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ballots can be tracked by voters at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov.

The results of ballots received by Oct. 31 will be in the first Election Day report issued at 8 p.m., Konopasek said. It could take four to five days to count ballots received afterward, he said.

Those who prefer to vote in person on Election Day may still do so. In Rossmoor, that’s at the Event Center. But Rossmoor voters are warned there may be delays and waiting lines and are asked to be patient.

That’s because county health regulations allow no more than 10 voters and poll workers in the room at once, said Chuck Sapper, Rossmoor poll inspector. There could be as many as five poll workers at any one time, he said.

While waiting in line outside the Event Center, residents must keep a distance of 6 feet from others. Voters and workers must wear masks inside the building. The polling place will be disinfected regularly.

Voters can skip the hassle of parking and waiting in line by filling out their ballot ahead of time and using the drive-through ballot drop-off service in the Gateway parking lot during Nov. 3 voting hours.

There’s no telling how many residents will opt to vote in person, Sapper said.

“We have no idea what the attendance will be. If the line is short, that will be nice since that means people voted by mail,” he said. “We’ve got to roll with the punches – that’s how a democracy works.”

For information on the election, go to the county election website at www.cocovote.us.

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