By Rolinda Espinoza
COVID-19 has changed the way we do a lot of things this year.
Voting is no exception. Some states have implemented measures intended to increase mail voting in the upcoming election, which will be held Nov. 3.
Some residents of Riverside County who have never voted with absentee ballots are now relying on mail-in voting to stay safe during the pandemic. For many of them, mail-in ballots provide a sense of security that their votes will be counted, without putting their health at risk.
“I have never ever voted by mail,” said Erlinda Rodriguez, 75, of Corona. “I have always voted in person on the day of the election. However, I am a senior citizen which puts me in a vulnerable position in regard to COVID-19, so I will be voting by mail this year.”
The last day to register for mail-in voting in Riverside County is Oct. 19.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed two executive orders that changed voting regulations due to COVID-19.
The first order, signed May 8, required the Registrar of Voters to mail each registered voter a ballot. There are 1.2 million registered voters in Riverside County this year. Vote-by-mail ballots were sent out Oct. 5.
There was an extension for submitting ballots this year due to public health concerns. In previous years, ballots were required to be sent before election day and received within three days post-election day. This year, ballots must still be sent before Nov. 3, but will be accepted up to 17 days after election day.
The extension considers any issues or slowdowns that might arise within the U.S. Postal Service.
The second executive order, signed June 3, establishes opportunities for in-person voting that follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There will be voter assistance centers for anyone who needs help while voting in Riverside County. The centers will aid those who may not have received their ballots, made mistakes filling out their ballot, need bilingual assistance or require an audio voting ballot.
There will be 130 assistance centers open between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3 in Riverside County. Same-day voter registration will be available at the voter assistance centers.
“We are encouraging voters to vote those ballots and only come into those voter assistance centers if they need the assistance,” said Rebecca Spencer of the Riverside County Registrar of Voters.
Voting by mail does not require a postal stamp. The envelope must be signed and sent through the U.S. Postal Service or dropped off at one of the 80 available drop sites in Riverside County.
Drop-off locations open Oct. 5 and will be open during regular business hours until Nov. 3.
Ballot tracking is available for concerned residents.
Where’s My Ballot, a ballot-tracking service, sends email or text notifications to registered members about the status of their ballot from when it is sent out to when it is received.