Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Sept. 4 @ 4:36 p.m. / Elections

Dubious About Vote-by-Mail? 'Call or Ask,' Del Norte County Clerk Says


Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Voting_United_States.jpg

Election Day is nearly two months away, but Alissia Northrup and her staff are already preparing ballots for the printer.

Every registered voter in Del Norte County will receive a ballot in the mail this year, the county elections officer told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Friday. Though she acknowledged voters may hear conflicting messages about whether vote-by-mail is secure, Northup says she’s confident about the system.

“A lot of people don’t realize the process of what happens to these ballots,” she said. “Each ballot is handled by a human being who examines the ballot to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. They verify signature against the signature we have on file from (the voter’s) registration card and they verify the address to make sure it’s the address where they’re registered to vote and to make sure they’re only voting on what they should be voting on. If any of those things are off, we contact the voter to let them know….”

Sample ballots and voter information guides for the Nov. 3, 2020 election will start going to voters on Sept. 24. People will receive a state sample ballot for state candidates and propositions and a county ballot for local races.

The Del Norte County ballot will include the runoff race for District 2 supervisor, the candidates for the Del Norte Unified School District Board of Trustees and the city and county sales tax initiatives — measures R and S.

Official ballots will be sent to voters starting Oct. 5, Northrup said. People can track their ballots — monitoring when it was mailed, received and counted — by clicking here, she said.

“Last time I was on there we had almost 300 people signed up already,” Northrup said.

People can bring their finished ballots to a drop box at the Flynn Center. There will be a box in the water department at Crescent City Hall. Voters can also put their ballot in the mail without worrying about postage — the envelopes are postage-paid, she said.

In previous elections, nearly 70 percent of Del Norte voters cast their ballots by mail, Northrup said.

Though there isn’t much difference now, Northrup said those wanting to vote by mail had to request an absentee ballot for “very specific reasons” why they couldn’t visit a polling place. Now, anyone who wants to can vote by mail, though in Del Norte County, the polling places at all 18 precincts will be open and staffed on Nov. 3, Northrup said.

In fact, Northrup’s still looking for volunteers to work Election Day. She's working with Del Norte Emergency Services Manager Kymmie Scott to train someone on COVID-19 safety measures including masks, gloves and sanitation.

Northrup will need regular poll workers too.

In June, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed emergency legislation that required ballots be sent to all voters in the mail. It also extended the timeframe elections offices accept returned ballots by 17 days.

Northrup said as long as a person’s ballot has been postmarked by Nov. 3, her office will accept them through Nov. 20.

The emergency legislation also gave county elections offices to consolidate polling places if they were open starting Oct. 31, the Saturday before Election Day. Northrup said she decided to have all 18 polling locations available on Nov. 3 as a way of encouraging social distancing during COVID-19 and because she doesn’t have the staff available for four days.

Plus, a lot of polling places belong to organizations that donate the use of their facilities to the county, Northrup said.

“I went with what worked best for us,” she said. “But it’s meant to be a backup — a security net — just in case somebody’s lost a ballot. Just in case somebody makes a mistake. Just in case somebody needs to vote conditional voter registration. If they realize they’re not registered properly, they can go to a polling location.”

In addition to the runoff election between incumbent Lori Cowan and Valerie Starkey for Del Norte County District 2 Supervisor, the local contested races include Crescent City Council and Del Norte Unified School District’s Trustee Area 3 seat.

Six candidates — incumbent Jason Greenough, Herman Rinkel, Ray Altman, Alex Campbell, Eric Gill Port and Beau Smith — are competing for three seats on the Crescent City Council.

For DNUSD’s Trustee Area 3 Seat, incumbent Frank Magarino faces challengers Billy Hartwick and Sheryl Stienruck. Trustee Area 3 includes Smith River, Hiouchi and Gasquet, but all Del Norters will be able to vote in that race.

Voters in the city and county will also decide on a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase. Measure R, which applies in the unincorporated area of Del Norte County, and Measure S, which applies to Crescent City, both address public safety.

If approved, Measure R would generate about $1.2 million annually to be used to repair potholes, support law enforcement and maintain emergency dispatch services and address blight and public nuisances outside city limits.

Measure S would generate roughly $1.3 million if approved would also go supporting the city’s fire and police departments. Tax revenue would also go toward repairing and sustaining the Fred Endert Municipal Pool.

Del Norte voters will also have a plethora of state initiatives to weigh in on, Northrup pointed out.

“People need to do their homework,” she said.

For more information, call the Del Norte County Elections Office at (707) 464-7216.


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