Making voting easy
State officials say Sacramento County is ‘leading the way’ on new pilot program
When Sacramento became the largest pilot county in the state for the Voters Choice Act, voter participation in this year’s June primary nearly doubled where it had been four years ago. Now a coalition of local governments and nonprofits is hoping to facilitate another turnout boom on November 2 by spreading the word about the VCA’s little known but vital details.
The Sacramento.Vote Coalition is a nonpartisan effort that teams city and county staff with voter-participation advocates like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters and outreach organizations such as Resources for Independent Living and Hmong Innovating Politics. One of the coalition’s primary goals is to make sure people know the VCA allows for same-day voter registration at every voting center.
In the past, voters who’d moved between election cycles and forgotten to re-register would be be turned away at their polling places or given provisional ballots. Now all polling places have been replaced by voting centers that aren’t ZIP-code specific. Any Sacramento resident can cast their ballot at any of these centers. They can also sign up for same-day registration at any of them.
“Of the five counties in the program, Sacramento over-performed when it came to same-day registration in June,” said James Schwab, chief of legislative affairs at the California Secretary of State’s Office. “It’s also the most diverse of the counties trying the VCA. … Sacramento is really leading the way.”
Other elements of the VCA include: 29 days before the election, every voter is mailed a ballot. Voters can mail or drop off their ballots at any of the 52 drop-off locations throughout the county; or vote in person at one of 60 voting centers. A map of voting centers and drop-off locations can be viewed at elections.saccounty.net.
Election results in the June primary did take longer to certify than previous years. Tammie Dramer of Organize Sacramento says that voters themselves can change that.
“We’re telling people, if you vote sooner, you’ll get your results sooner,” Dramer said. “And the more people who vote early, the more accurate early vote totals are going to be.”
The California Endowment is also participating in the coalition, and contends the VCA provides more accessibility to college students juggling classes and job schedules.
“We think the new system is particularly appealing to young people,” said Jonathan Ronald Tran of the Endowment. “When we’ve been out there talking to them, we’ve found it’s physical barriers that are keeping them from voting, not apathy.”