A voter guide for the Nov. 3 general election.
Voter guides have been arriving in Santa Barbara County mailboxes ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. Mail-in ballots will be sent out in early October, and voters are urged to take care in filling them out and returning them. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

With the Nov. 3 election looming, voters will start receiving ballots in the mail 29 days before the election, beginning Oct. 5. 

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in May that means every registered voter in California will be mailed a ballot this year.

Californians can register to vote online here, at https://registertovote.ca.gov/, or by mail using the California voter registration form available at U.S. Post Offices or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Voters can also check their registration status and update their address online.

The state website, voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/, will show your current voter registration information, and gives the option to re-register if any information is incorrect. The information needed to check registration status includes name, driver’s license or California identification card number, the last four digits of a social security number, and date of birth. 

The deadline for online and mail-in voter registration is Oct.19. However, there is same-day voter registration available at the County Elections Office locations and polling places.

The three County Elections offices are located at 4440-A Calle Real in Santa Barbara, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria, and 401 E. Cypress Avenue, Room 102, in Lompoc, and are expected to be open during business hours starting in early October. 

Filling Out the Ballot Properly 

Voters must fill their ballots out properly to make sure that they are counted, and here’s how.

To mark the ballot, voters should completely fill in the oval corresponding to the candidates and measures selected. The ovals can not be marked with a felt-tip pen or with red ink. To vote for a qualified write-in candidate, write the person’s name on the blank space provided and fill out that corresponding oval.

If a voter mistakenly marks a candidate or measure, it can be corrected by drawing a distinct ‘X’ through the mismarked oval and marking the preferred choice and legibly writing ‘yes’ next to the correct choice.

When finished marking the ballot, remove the stub from the top of the ballot, and do not cut along the perforated line. Fold the ballot the same way it was folded when received in the mail, and seal it in the provided return envelope.

An envelope for a mail-in ballot.

Mail-in ballot will start arriving in local mailboxes in early October, , and voters are urged to take care in filling them out and returning them. (Contributed photo)

Voters must sign and date the envelope before returning it. Every voter must sign their own ballot and ballots can not be signed by anyone else in the household.

Forgetting to sign the envelope is a common mistake when returning mail-in ballots, said Joe Holland, head of the Santa Barbara County Elections Office.

Voters must make sure their signatures match their driver’s license signature or previous mail-in ballots, he added. If a signature has changed significantly over time, Holland recommends re-registering to vote with a paper application, instead of online, to update the signature. 

If the signature does not match one on file, County Elections staff members will mail a notice to the voter, telling the person to correct the signature, Holland said. 

If a voter is physically unable to sign the ballot, they may make their mark in the signature box with a witness’ signature beside it and the voter’s printed name. A signature stamp may be used to sign the envelope if a voter used the stamp when they registered to vote.

Returning the Ballot to the County Elections Office 

Ballot envelopes do not require postage and can be returned by putting them in the mail, or delivering them directly to the County Elections office locations, at county-run ballot drop boxes, or to any of the county’s limited polling places, which will be open Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

The Santa Barbara County Elections Office website has more local information about the Nov. 3 election here. 

The ballot drop boxes will be available countywide, 24 hours a day, starting Oct. 5, and ballots will be collected daily by county elections staff, Holland said.  

“Ideally, we want people to just drop off their ballots. We don’t really want people coming in to vote in person if they don’t need to,” said Holland. “The main message is to vote early. Avoid long lines. Voter early, vote safe, vote at home.”

All ballots mailed in have to be postmarked by Nov. 3, election day, to be counted, and must be received by Nov. 20. The United States Postal Service advises voters to mail in their ballots no later than Oct. 27 to reach the elections office in time to be counted.

If voters do not receive their ballot in the mail by Oct. 12, or have lost or destroyed their first ballot, a new one can be requested by contacting the County Registrar of Voters office at 805.568.2200.

Voters can track their ballots online, at california.ballottrax.net/voter/, to see when they are mailed, received, and counted.

To register for ballot tracking, just enter your first and last name, date of birth, and zip code in the website. Once registered, there will be a dashboard showing the current vote-by-mail ballot status.

For people wanting to vote in person, early voting is encourage to keep crowds small.

Voters can cast ballots at the Registrar’s Office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Oct. 5. The office will also be open on Saturday, Oct. 31, to Sunday, Nov.1, between the same hours.

In-person voters can also vote at their assigned polling place beginning Saturday, Oct. 31, through election day on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

On the weekend, polling places will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, Nov. 2, polling places will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day, the polling place hours will be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

There will be 35 in-person polling places throughout the county, according to the County Elections Office, and locations will be finalized in early October. 

Voters can look up their local polling place online approximately 30 days before the election.

“I don’t want anybody to be disenfranchised,” Holland said. “I want everyone to be able to cast a ballot.”

Vote-by-Mail Resources

Register to vote: https://registertovote.ca.gov/

Check voter registration status: voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/

The California Secretary of State Office Voter Information Guide is available online here: https://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/voter-info/

State voter guide information for propositions on the Nov. 3 ballot: https://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/

Santa Barbara County Elections Office information about the Nov. 3 election: https://countyofsb.org/care/elections/voting/upcoming/november-3-2020.sbc

Track your ballot: https://california.ballottrax.net/voter/

Look up your polling place to vote in person or drop off your ballot from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3: countyofsb.org/care/elections/voting/lookup.sbc

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at jmartinez-pogue@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.