You’ve got mail: Election ballots sent to registered Santa Clara County voters

Have you checked your mailbox recently? A vote-by-mail ballot will arrive soon if you’re registered to vote.

More than 940,000 ballots were mailed Monday to voters across Santa Clara County for the March 3 presidential primary election.

As part of the Voter’s Choice Act, which was approved last year, this is an attempt at simplifying the election as a whole. Active registered voters — just under half of the county’s 1.9 million residents — will have until Election Day to return their ballots.

For those who have family, friends or loved ones in the military or overseas, don’t worry. More than 7,000 ballots have been mailed to make sure these voters have time to have their votes returned and tallied.

Voters must sign the back of the ballot’s return envelope for verification to make it official, as paid postage is included. If voters do not sign their ballots or the signatures do not match registration records, the county will work to address those issues before election results are certified.

County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said sending everyone a ballot made sense because mail-in ballots figures are expected to rise.

“This truly is the future of elections,” Bushey said. “We have seen vote-by-mail rates skyrocket to the point where nearly 80 percent of voters — four out of five — chose this option in 2018.”

Nearly 300,000 No Party Preference (NPP) voters in the county, however, will not have the option to vote for a presidential primary candidate. For NPP voters who wish to cast a crossover ballot for the American Independent, Democratic or Libertarian parties, the county must receive requests for a new ballot by Feb. 25.

Those wishing to vote for a candidate in the Green, Peace & Freedom and Republican parties will have to re-register, as those political parties do not allow crossover ballots.

Sam Mahood of the Secretary of State’s office emphasized that this was the choice of those parties, not an action or decision from the Secretary of State’s office.

Out of 625,425 voters in Santa Clara County, nearly 78 percent — just under 487,000 voters — sent their ballots in by mail during the last statewide election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

For any voters who may be wary of the safety of mailing their ballots, Mahood said his office rolled out the “Where’s My Ballot?” tracking tool Tuesday morning. When voters sign up for the service, the tool will send email, text or voice call status alerts when ballots are received, counted and if there are any issues.

“It’s another way that voters have confidence that their ballot is being counted properly,” Mahood said.

Traditional voting remains an option, as the county offers 110 vote centers. New this year, voters can go to whichever location is most convenient rather than an assigned polling place.

About 22 of these centers will open Feb. 22 — 10 days before election day — in various city offices, campuses, libraries community centers, while the rest will open four days before the election. Mail-in ballots can also be dropped off at vote centers and the nearly 100 drop box locations across the county. Voters who want to get their choices in as soon as possible can go to the Registrar’s office for early in-person voting at 1555 Berger Dr., Building 2 in San Jose.

Contact Katie Lauer at katie@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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