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March Primary Voting Changes: What You Need to Know

Santa Clara County’s Registrar of Voters is rolling out changes to the way we vote. The county will put California’s new Voter’s Choice Act into action for the March 3 primary election.

The changes mean all voters will be mailed a ballot before Election Day. Voters can mail their ballot back in or drop off their ballot at any ballot box in the county.

They can also vote before election day at any Vote Center in the county. Vote Centers will take the place of polling places this election. While there will be fewer Vote Centers, they will be open for more than just election day, some as many as 10 days before March 3.

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“It is going to make it more convenient for our 900,000 registered voters to cast a ballot and is anticipated to increase voter participation — there will be many more options for when, where and how people can vote,” said Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey after the Santa Clara County Board of Directors voted to approve the changes last April.

As part of the effort to make it easier for everyone to vote, each vote center will have interpreters who speak multiple languages.

“We’re going to have assistance in all languages at all of the voting centers. Definitely for the main four, the federally mandated languages… Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese,” said Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Communications Specialist Eric Kurhi. “Then we have additional languages that we’re trying to have on hand staff for [including] Hindi, Japanese, and Korean.”

There will also be a language hotline that voters can call into to receive assistance.

The plan is to have 110 to 120 Vote Centers spread out across Santa Clara County. About a quarter of the centers will open on Feb. 22. The rest will open up closer to Election Day. In Santa Clara, Levi’s Stadium will serve as a Vote Center.

“For the last four days, that’s when we really pull out all the stops and we have all of them open for those four days leading up [to the election],” said Kurhi. “That’s going to be starting on Saturday the 29th. That’s where we’re going to include Levi’s Stadium Vote Center.”

When you walk into a Vote Center, you’ll be asked to check in and your signature will be matched against the one in the County’s database.

“We have an electronic poll book which will tell people if you’ve been to any of the vote centers or if we’ve already received your vote by mail ballot, in which case you already voted,” said Kurhi. “You will also sign in at that time. That’s the check. The name will reflect someone who has been a verified, registered voter and then the check is based on signature.”

Santa Clara County will finalize its list of Vote Centers in early February. To find the closest Vote Center to you, visit sccvote.org and follow the Voter’s Choice links from there.

The Registrar of Voters office will also release an app closer to Election Day. That app will direct you to the Vote Center closest to your location.

“We’re really emphasizing the convenience…We urge you not to wait until the last minute,” said Kurhi. “Look at the YouTube videos from Sacramento when they rolled it out. A lot of people waited until the last minute and that can create lines…we want people to take advantage of either the vote by mail, or the drop boxes, or all the locations open for so many days, so that they don’t have to wait until the last minute.”

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