As America enters the voting season, the coronavirus outbreak continues to cast a large shadow over the 2020 presidential election.
In recent months, controversy has swirled around the discussion of the voting process itself, and in particular, mail-in ballots.
According to Laura Cantu, acting division chief of elections for the Kern County Elections Office, local poll site locations are still undetermined.
"We are still finalizing that right now. As soon as that information is available, we will make it available at KernVote.com," Cantu said.
Cantu said that everyone will receive a mail-in ballot, and voters do not have to submit an application.
The Kern County Elections Office supplied the following answers to the most frequently asked questions it receives.
Q. Will there be poll sites on Nov. 3?
A. Kern County will have as many poll sites in November as in the March Primary.
Q. Do I need to notify the election office if I want to vote at my poll site?
Q. Why are there poll sites if all registered voters are being mailed a ballot?
A. Poll sites are available for voters who need assistance (lost or spoiled ballot, missed the voter registration deadline of Oct. 19, or who need language, audio, visual or other assistance to mark their ballot) as well as for voters who simply prefer to vote in person.
Q. Will I need to do anything differently if I am voting in person in November?
A. We strongly recommend voters bring their mail ballot with them and surrender it at their precinct prior to voting. This will make the process go more smoothly. However, if you lose your ballot or forget to bring it, you will still be able to vote, but you will have to vote provisionally. Once the election office verifies that you have not also voted your mail ballot, the provisional ballot can be processed.
Q. Are masks required to vote at the polls?
A. Masks are strongly encouraged, but not required. We will have alternate protocols in place for voters without masks, to protect the health of poll workers and other voters, so the voting process may take a little longer.
Q. Will there be special safety protocols in place at the poll sites due to COVID-19?
A. We will be following CDC guidelines regarding frequent disinfecting of surfaces, use of hand sanitizer, and physical distancing. In order to comply with physical distancing requirements, voters may be asked to wait in line outside the poll site until they can be accommodated at their precinct.
Vote by mail:
Q. Do I need to submit an application to vote-by-mail?
A. No. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed to all active, registered voters.
Q. When will my ballot be mailed?
A. Ballots are mailed starting the week of Oct. 5. If you do not receive your ballot by Oct. 16, contact the election office.
Q. Will my ballot be counted if there are delays in mail delivery?
A. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before election day. For the Nov. 3, 2020 election, ballots must be received by the election office by 17 days after the election (Nov. 20). We strongly encourage voters to mail their ballots early.
Q. How will I know if my mail ballot is counted?
A. You can track the status of your ballot by using Ballot Trax. For more information go to vote.ca.gov.
Q. With the anticipated increase in vote by mail voting in November, will the election office still be able to review every signature on the return envelopes?
A. Yes. During the March primary, 72 percent of the ballots cast were vote by mail. We will be able to handle any increase in November.
Q. What is the difference between absentee and vote by mail voting?
A. They are the same thing. Some jurisdictions refer to it as absentee voting and others refer to it as vote by mail.
Q. Will early voting be available in Kern County?
A. What voters call “early voting” in Kern County consists of requesting a vote-by-mail ballot in person rather than having it mailed to them. All active, registered voters will be mailed a ballot.
Preparing for the election:
Q. What can I do now to get ready for the November election?
A. 1) Voters can check their voter registration information to make sure it is up-to-date by going to voterstatus.sos.ca.gov.
2) If you are eligible to vote but not yet registered, you can register at registertovote.ca.gov or you can call the election office at 868-3590 or 1-800-452-VOTE to request a registration form.
3) You can update your signature on file with the election office by going to KernVote.com/VotebyMail/Forms.
According to Cantu, poll workers are currently being recruited for all precincts. Poll workers receive a stipend starting at $110. For more information, visit KernVote.com.