The San Benito County Elections Department is working hard to ensure that voters will have plenty of options to cast their ballots for the 2020 Presidential General Election.
The latest plan is to build five new official ballot drop-off boxes that will be placed throughout the county including Aromas, San Juan Bautista and Tres Pinos.
Joe Paul Gonzalez, San Benito County clerk-auditor-recorder and Registrar of Voters, said it was critical to add additional drop boxes so they could ensure voter confidence. He said the county will monitor the sites with security cameras and election staff will pick up ballots multiple times a day.
“This is so important to help serve our voters in San Benito County,” he said.
County officials will unlock ballot drop boxes beginning Oct. 5. They will remain open until Election Day, Nov. 3, at 8pm. A list of locations will be printed in the County Voter Information Guide, which will be mailed to voters in early October and available on the county website.
Gonzalez recently wrote an editorial that urges voters to fill out their ballots early and return them to one of the six secure drop boxes once they’re built and open. Construction and placement of the drop boxes begins this week.
“Nothing will stop democracy in America,” he said. “Not raging fires, not even a global Covid-19 pandemic. Every eligible United States citizen will have the opportunity to vote in the Nov. 3 Presidential General Election.”
Ana De Castro Maquiz, bilingual senior deputy at the County Clerk-Recorder-Elections office, said the idea of adding more drop boxes was already in the works but Covid-19 forced officials to push construction sooner than later.
“Everything kind of ties together and we just wanted to make sure the voters feel at ease that they’re dropping [a ballot] off somewhere that we’re going to manage and no one else is going to touch,” she said. “They can have their trust in us that we’re going to be able to manage their ballot, get it and count it, and do everything correctly.”
Additional ballot drop boxes will also open up beginning Oct. 31 with locations at Dunneville Cafe and Market at 5970 San Felipe Road, Tres Pinos Market at 6851 Airline Highway and the Aromas Fire Station. The drop boxes will be open based on business hours except for Nov. 3, when they will be open until the polls close at 8pm.
Voters can also mail their prepaid posted ballot back to the San Benito County Elections Office. The envelope must have a postmark showing no later than Nov. 3. The United States Postal Service advises voters to drop off their ballots in the mail no later than Oct. 27 to ensure that the envelope reaches the elections office in a timely manner.
The county elections office is trying to push voters to sign up for Ballottrax, which allows them to track their ballot similar to tracking a postal service package. De Castro-Maquiz said that voters have mentioned to her that they feel safe knowing they can track down their own ballot.
Voters who want to show up in person will have four days to cast their ballot beginning Oct. 31 and ending on Election Day, Nov. 3.
In-person voting will be available at the county elections office at 440 Fifth Street, the Veterans’ Memorial Building at 649 San Benito Street, St. Benedict Catholic Church at 1200 Fairview Road and the San Juan Bautista Community Center at 10 San Jose Street.
De Castro-Maquiz said that voters will be able to cast their ballots at any one of these four locations. She said they’re encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting.
“I know it’s different from before but it’s just something that we have to really make sure that we say more than once,” she said.
De Castro-Maquiz said it’s a great opportunity for voters to participate this year because they’ve heard from some in the past who said they didn’t get a chance to vote due to their work schedule.
De Castro-Maquiz said they don’t expect long lines because they’ve been trying their best to let voters know this year there are four days to vote. She mentioned that they traditionally have 15 neighborhood polling locations but that was changed mostly due to the Covid-19 state guidelines.
Those who plan to show up for in-person voting will be asked to wear a mask. De Castro-Maquiz said they will provide plenty of masks, gloves and cleaning material for the tables, and wipes that are specific for technology. The booths will be placed at least six feet apart from each other and only a certain number of people will be allowed inside.
De Castro-Maquiz said they’ve been doing their best to adjust everything related to the coronavirus because the guidelines are constantly changing. She mentioned that they revamped their Facebook and Twitter (@SBCVOTE) accounts, which contain more information than before.
“There’s a lot going on but we’re trying to prepare,” she said.