Our View: Voting change is a positive for Nevada County
March 10, 2017
The way we vote is changing, and that's a good thing.
Nevada County is one of 14 counties in a pilot program that will significantly change how we cast ballots starting in 2018. Polling places across the county will disappear and be replaced by seven vote centers. All registered voters, regardless of whether they've asked for a mail-in-ballot, will get one about a month before election day. We'll be able to drop off our completed ballots days before the election at vote centers and drop-off spots.
How about a receipt for all that change?
We know this dramatic shift in how our county votes will upset people. Polling places can be a staple in our lives. Some boast about using the same poll for decades.
Problem is, everything changes. Plenty of voters never stepped inside a voting booth, felt the curtains close behind them and clicked their vote onto a machine. Now we scroll through names on a digital screen or pencil them in before feeding our vote into a tabulation device.
Or we fill out our ballot while in our pajamas and drop it in the mail the next day. Nevada County voters have been doing that for years. They'll still be able to mail in their ballots under the new system. These changes are just the next step.
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In some ways very little will change. Almost 80 percent of the county's 68,829 registered voters cast their ballots by mail.
We're already a county that tends to eschew in-person voting. It's not too far a leap to replace polling stations with vote centers, reduce their number and save money.
There will be no wrong place to vote under the new system. People can drop off their ballots, or vote in person, at any of the vote centers. Additionally, under a new law, people can register to vote on election day at one of these centers.
All aspects of this change add up to one big win: Making voting easier. Our government should make voting one of the simplest activities to perform. Voting isn't only for the college educated, people who have reached a ripe, old age or those who think just like us — it's for everyone who meets the citizenship and age requirements.
And it's about to get a lot easier in Nevada County.
We first reported on this pilot program in November. Greg Diaz, the county's clerk-recorder and registrar of voters, described the new system at that time and followed up this month with a formal press release.
Kudos to Diaz and his office for getting in front of this issue. The shift remains over a year away, but people need to know what's going to happen.
We encourage our elections office to keep up with the notifications. We know it's coming now, but how about another reminder 60 days before ballots are mailed and then another notice some two weeks before election day?
These notices wouldn't just inform about an upcoming election, but also remind voters about the existence of vote centers, ballot drop-off spots and the fact that there will no longer be a wrong place to vote.
Let that sink in: You can cast a ballot, or drop it off, at any vote center.
The die-hard voters tied to their polling station will disagree, but we have to say: Thanks for the change.
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.