Greg Diaz: The future of voting is now | TheUnion.com

Greg Diaz: The future of voting is now

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Greg Diaz

Elections in Nevada County have been trending toward voting by mail for a long time. Let's look at some numbers that are quite revealing.

In the November 2016 Presidential Election, 77.6 percent of county registered voters applied to be vote-by-mail voters; 53,499 of 68,829 registered voters were vote-by-mail voters, leaving 15,330 polling place voters. In that election, polling place voters only had a 46 percent turnout, however, vote-by-mail voters had an 82.7 percent turnout. Numbers show the time is right for Nevada County to adopt the California Voter's Choice Act.

The Voter's Choice Act provides for Nevada County to conduct "all-mail ballot elections", i.e., "elections in which every voter in a county is mailed a ballot" and "in lieu of polling places being open on election day, 'vote centers' and 'ballot drop-off locations' are available prior to and on election day, where voters may deliver their completed ballots. Since every registered voter in Nevada County will receive a vote-by-mail ballot, let me please explain what happens to your ballot when you send it in.

Returned ballots are collected and received at the elections office where they are processed and counted.

Each voter's ballot envelope has a unique barcode that gives you credit for voting. This ensures that each voter can only vote once.

Every signed ballot envelope is compared to signatures on file for the voter in our database. If your signature matches, your ballot moves onto the next step. If your signature is challenged, you'll be notified and given instructions on how to correct the issue.

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The two most common reasons a ballot envelope is challenged are: the envelope isn't signed or the signature doesn't match the voter's record. A challenged ballot will be counted once the problem is corrected.

You can check the status of your ballot at http://www.mynevadacounty.com/elections.

When voter signatures are verified, ballot envelopes are opened and the ballot is removed, unfolded and prepared for processing through scanners which total up the votes. Results are tabulated and released after 8 p.m. on election night.

The Voter's Choice Act in Nevada County is designed to make voting more convenient and accessible.

You choose how you vote: Whether using the mail (we pay for postage), a ballot Drop Box or a Vote Center, you choose the method that works best for you. Voters with disabilities may use their own accessible technology to mark their ballot at home.

You choose when you vote: Instead of just one day to vote, you can vote in person for up to 11 days — even on the weekends.

You choose where you vote: You can vote at home or register and/or vote at any Vote Center in your county.

You get the support you need: Vote Center staff will be there to help you have a great voting experience, including providing assistance in multiple languages and helping voters with disabilities.

Accessible Voting

In Nevada County, we offer an accessible vote-by-mail ballot. A digital vote-by-mail ballot can be sent to you directly by email. Read and mark your ballot from the privacy of your own home, using your own assistive technology. Return your ballot by mail with the postage-paid envelope provided, or drop it at a Drop Box or Vote Center.

Every Vote Center is surveyed to confirm it is ADA accessible. Each Vote Center has electronic voting systems with large print options and audio options that read the ballot to you. Each of these units can accommodate the use of Tactile Switches and Sip and Puff devices. Magnifying tools are freely available on tables.

Paper and electronic ballots are available for you to vote on from nearby accessible locations, including a car. To request assistance, you may: call in advance to coordinate a time and place; have an assistant make the request inside the Vote Center or ring the bell outside of a Vote Center to inform staff that you would like assistance.

Easier, more convenient to vote

There have been numerous reports of efforts to hack, manipulate and misinform voters and impact elections in our country. The Voter's Choice Act allows us to strengthen our security protocols and our Vote Center recruitment will focus on bringing in experienced and more qualified personnel which results in more efficient, accurate and secure elections.

Nevada County elections were well-protected in the 2016 elections and we will be firmly protected again this year.

Please take advantage of the variety of online services available on our website. You can view your sample ballot, verify that you are registered to vote, check to see if your vote-by-mail ballot has been received and find our Vote Centers and Drop Box locations. Also, we encourage you to visit our website, mynevadacounty.com/elections, on election night to view up-to-date results including our interactive results map.

If you have any questions or need assistance of any kind, please contact Nevada County Elections at 530-265-1298. We are here to serve you. Be sure to cast your vote in this Gubernatorial Primary Election! Your vote counts and will be counted.

Gregory J. Diaz is Nevada County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters.