COVID-19 Changes Voting in Yolo County for the Presidential Election

By Grant Schrader

Although some may enjoy a plethora of in-person voting locations, changing traditional habits to aid in social distancing is important to fight against COVID-19, and Yolo County officials recognize this by offering ballot boxes and voter assistance centers in addition to traditional in-person voting locations.

Of the many changes necessary for combating COVID-19 made this year, changes to voting in the 2020 presidential election may be the most significant. Though the 2020 election will be held as normal on November 3 yet with alterations, pursuant to SB-423, a Senate bill approved on Aug. 6, 2020. Ballots will be mandatorily mailed to all registered Yolo County voters and can be returned either through the mail or to a ballot box.  

According to the City of Davis, voters will start receiving ballots in the mail on Oct. 5, and must be registered by Oct. 19, so make sure to heed these dates to legally cast your vote. 

For residents who have worries about election security in a time of all absentee ballots, the Yolo County Assessor and Clerk-Recorder of Elections, Jesse Salinas, advises that “all voting procedures are implemented with the highest level of integrity. Our registration lists are maintained regularly, and we check all signatures on returned ballots against your voter registration signature on file.” 

Salinas also provides a concise explanation of the system currently in place, stating,“There are several safe and secure options to cast your ballot for the Nov. 3, 2020, election. All active, registered voters receive a ballot in the mail and are encouraged to vote that ballot! You can return your Vote-by-Mail ballot by mail (return postage is paid); via a Ballot Drop Box (from 10/5/20 through 8:00 p.m. on Election Night 11/3/20); or vote in-person at a Voter Assistance Center. It is best to vote early and avoid lines and crowds on Election Day.”

In continuation with changes made due to voter comments, in regards to voting equality, Salinas states that “several outreach efforts have been made to expand voter access throughout Yolo County to underrepresented communities.”

Salinas further explains those efforts stating, “Several strategies have been employed including earning trust through important community partnerships. We have connected with community groups and community leaders – who are assisting us with underrepresented communities.”  

As a result of these efforts, Salinas informs us that “these partnerships help disseminate information on services to voters with specific needs, voters with language assistance needs and important election changes. We provide outreach via press releases and social media but also outreach via mailings, flyers and radio/television when possible to assist in reaching underserved communities, including outreach in languages other than English.”

The county has made efforts in providing a multitude of languages for election materials and contact with a variety of diverse communities, in addition to their commitment to approach and properly serve and address the concerns of their constituents who need accessibility accomodation.

To assist voters who have trouble or confusion with this system, the county will also offer “Voter Assistance Centers” where voters can have their questions answered, turn in their mail-in ballot or cast a ballot in person. 

Ballot boxes will be available from the 5th of October to the 3rd of November, and voter assistance centers will be available from October 31st to November 2nd (from 10am to 6pm). 

On November 3rd, Voter Assistance Centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to help voters who have problems arising from the recent changes, or to clear up confusion about the process.  

The county has 12 locations each for ballot boxes and voter assistance centers; four will be in Davis, one each in Esparto, three in West Sacramento, one in Winters, and three each in Woodland.  Of the cities in Yolo County, Winters is the only one without a 24/7 outdoor ballot drop box, which provides an open opportunity for voters to cast a ballot without restrictions based on hours of operation. 

In Davis, the 24/7 ballot box will be available outside at 23 Russell Blvd. starting Oct. 5. If you elect to use an interior ballot box instead of an exterior one, be advised that they are restricted to their individual operating hours which are posted along with their locations. A voter assistance center will be stationed at the UC Davis ARC ballroom, as well as three other Davis locations. 

These changes were made with assistance from the Davis school district, who agreed to host voter assistance centers in Montgomery and Patwin Elementary’s multipurpose rooms. Hours for the voter assistance centers were chosen with input from constituents by way of a public survey done in August. Further considerations for operating hours were the times residents would find most convenient, allowing for more opportunities for ballots to be cast. 

Yolo County officials also altered the location of one voter assistance center based on public comment, moving it to Montgomery Elementary School from its previously chosen location of Harper Jr. High. This change was made to offer easier access to residents of nearby neighborhoods. 

To find your nearest ballot drop box or voter assistance center, visit https://www.yoloelections.org/voting/locations for further information including locations and operating hours of ballot boxes or assistance centers.


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