Election Day for the primary election in California isn’t until June 5. But for the campaigns and candidates up and down the ballot, election season started yesterday when vote-by-mail ballots started going out.
In some counties, including the county I call home – Sacramento – this year’s primary will be a little different. As CALmatters reports, Sacramento is one of five counties in California that will be switching from traditional polling places to vote centers.
In addition to having fewer vote centers than polling places, “People will be able to not only vote in-person or drop off their ballots, but also pick up replacement ballots and make use of language assistance and translated materials. Crucially, they’ll also be able to register to vote on the spot – without the inconvenience of having to make what would otherwise be a required trip to the county registrar’s office to do so.”
The other practical differences are that instead of either going to your neighborhood polling place on Election Day, or mailing in your vote-by-mail ballot, registered voters “will automatically receive a ballot in the mail, which they can either return by mail, place in one of the many drop boxes … or take to any county vote center (including one near their work or along their daily commute). And they’ll be able to cast their ballots in-person up to 10 days before the election.” Essentially, every registered voter gets a ballot in the mail. Then it’s up to the voter to either mail that ballot back in or turn it in in-person at a vote center of their choosing.
I’ve typically been an in-person voter. I enjoy going to my neighborhood polling place, casting my ballot, and getting my I Voted sticker that I wear with a little too much pride. But I also enjoy getting mailers from campaigns and independent expenditure committees (IE’s) because I like to see where the campaigns think they’re at – and their messaging is generally a pretty good indicator of that. Were I to mail in my ballot early, the campaigns that are worth their salt and use voter targeting software like PDI, would know that I mailed in my ballot – once it’s received by the county registrar – and stop sending me mail.
I’m also interested in seeing how this shift will affect campaigns here in Sacramento County. One example: There’s a time honored GOTV (get out the vote) tradition of sending volunteers to “watch” polling places for the entirety of Election Day to make sure supporters in that precinct are turning out to vote. GOTV is a stressful enough time where every resource a campaign has is stretched thin. I can’t imagine trying to stretch resources even thinner when there are still potentially undecided voters out there to talk to.
Personally, I’ve yet to decide if I’m going to vote in person at one of the new vote centers or if I’ll just mail in my ballot. Right now, I’m leaning towards mailing it in, but I do like those campaign mailers.