Officials pledge safe election as polling stations open in Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey (center) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky (left) speak about election security at a news conference Oct. 26, 2020, organized by Supervisor Cindy Chavez (right).

It will be safe to vote.

That was the unifying message of elections officials, law enforcement and political leaders as they gathered in San Jose Oct. 26 to reassure voters about Santa Clara County’s election security. Polling stations open Oct. 31.

“We haven’t seen any fake ballot boxes. We haven’t seen voter suppression or any intimidation,” Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said. “Our goal is to make sure people in our community know that in Santa Clara County we have a plan to make sure everyone gets to vote and that their votes are going to be secure.”

She stood in front of a podium with two posters showing official county ballot boxes — large white containers identified by the county logo and “OFFICIAL BALLOT DROP BOX” in bold red.

Many people, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns about the integrity of this year’s election because of universal mail-in ballots.

Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said Santa Clara County received more than 388,000 ballots, representing 38% turnout of registered voters.

“We certify the final election 30 days after (Nov. 3),” she said. “So remember, you can postmark your ballot by Election Day and if it’s received in our office up until Nov. 20, we can count your ballot.”

Bushey also said the county will be doing audits and a manual 1% recount, which means randomly selecting 1% of ballots and verifying they match with official records.

“We do not stop until they are all counted,” she said.

County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky said that while the county is not expecting problems on Election Day, law enforcement will be prepared.

“The thought that I’m about to tell you that it will be safe to vote in Santa Clara County in 2020 is odd. It should be obvious,” he said. “It should be like saying it’s safe for you to go to school.”

Boyarsky said even though the kind of voter intimidation tactics used in Alabama before the civil rights era are not present in Santa Clara County, there are people seeking to undermine integrity in the election.

He also evoked the late activist John Lewis as a driving force in setting the stage for counties such as Santa Clara to have safe and fair elections.

“Congressman Lewis, who passed away earlier this year, said the right to vote is precious, almost sacred. People fought for it, bled for it, died for it. Honor their sacrifice. Vote,” Boyarsky said.

Assistant District Attorney James Gibbons-Shapiro said his office has worked with the Registrar of Voters to make sure the county’s election is free from intimidation.

“No one is allowed to intimidate you while you’re voting, either at a vote drop-off box or a vote center,” he said. “No one is allowed to assemble uniformed or armed people in the vicinity of a vote center. In California it’s a crime to do these things and they will not be tolerated,” he said.

In addition, Gibbons-Shapiro said people are not allowed to ask voters at polling locations about their qualifications to vote.

Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said the county and law enforcement are ready for cyber or physical attacks at any of the 100 polling stations opening this weekend.

Sunnyvale Police Chief Phan Ngo said law enforcement will be working closely with the county District Attorney’s Office to identify any signs of electioneering — campaigning for a candidate or ballot measure at polling sites.

When pressed about whether law enforcement would take immediate action against electioneering, Ngo said police would work closely with public health and the District Attorney’s office before doing so.

Chavez also encouraged voters to take advantage of the county’s ballot tracking site and said she does not fear the security of the county’s election because of all the measures they have put in place.

“We’re going to reassure every member of our community that every ballot will be counted, that there is no fear of that,” she said.

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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