Thank you very much Secretary pedia for joining me today the California Secretary of State oversees the election in the most populous state in the United States.
And we’re very happy to be able to ask him a few questions about what I think is an extremely exciting time in terms of, Election history.
California had, I think a record setting turnout for the 2016 presidential election.
And I expect or I hope that we will see an even larger turnout in this year.
But why don’t you tell us what you’re expecting and what you think about the civic engagement that we’re seeing that’s going to lead to perhaps historic voter turnout in the state.
I couldn’t agree more all indicators are pointing to a big, big turnout in this 2020 general election, you reference the 2016 election and record turnout then.
That’s absolutely true.
Since then both voter registration and turnout has continued to decline.
The 2018 midterm election had a record turnout for a midterm election.
And even this year’s primary election in March, we both had Record registration going in, and more ballots cast into March primary than any other primary election in California history.
And despite the pandemic which has made us adjust a little bit how we’re administering the election.
Sure, we’ll talk about that.
Registration continues to surge, more than 21 million voters now on the rolls in California.
So between the enthusiasm and the multiple options for voting and staying safe this November, I’m expecting a big turnout.
Well as a political science undergrad at UCLA, I am thrilled to hear that voter apathy which is one of the things that people talk about all the time in the United States low voter turnout.
I’m just happy to see that that is turning the tide and I think it is something that we should be talking about.
A lot more civic engagement and all time high.
Let’s talk about though how you’ve had to accommodate the fact that we are living through a pandemic, and that we need to change our behavior in order to, Exercise our right to vote.
So, California is one of the states that sent balance to every registered voter.
I think the expression that I saw was every active registered voter so why don’t you just talk about who those ballots were sent to what it means to be an active registered voter in the state of California.
Sure, and let me just sort of set the stage every election is important.
We say that every election cycle.
We work hard state and local elections officials in partnership to ensure that our elections are both accessible, right?
It should be easy to participate for all eligible voters, that they’re also secure.
We’ve talked a lot in the last four years about the security of elections.
But given the covid 19 pandemic, we wanna ensure that participation is also safe.
We care about the health and safety of voters and election workers alike.
So among the changes that we made for This general election is the decision to send a vote by mail ballot to every active registered voter in the state of California.
And so, to your specific question, what is an active registered voter?
You know, we’re contrary to what you may be hearing from some quarters We’re not bailing out ballots to anybody and everybody.
We specifically mail ballots out only to active registered voters because there’s a number of voters that are considered inactive.
Our federal law lays out a process for maintaining the accuracy of our voter lists.
And so if there’s a voter who hasn’t participated in a few elections, county officials will attempt to contact that Still there.
And they still wanna be registered at that address.
If those attempts to reach a voter go unresponded to, counties have the option to move that person to what we call an inactive status.
So they’re still on the roles, but they not be necessarily receiving all the materials because there’s a likelihood that they’re no longer at that address.
Once the voter votes again.
Or confirms their registration with the Secretary of State’s office or their county.
Then of course we reactivate their registration status.
So it’s one of the procedures we have in place to ensure the integrity of our elections.
And we’ve been mounting a campaign in recent weeks not just promoting voter registration, but reminding people to verify their registration status.
Wanna make sure their information is current and up to date, especially their mailing address, as counties recently mailed those 21 million plus ballots to every active registered voter in the state.
Now I am a long time absentee voter which is basically I’ve been mailing in my ballot for more than a decade, people in the United States have been mailing and balanced.
Going back to the Civil War.
This is not new for California, right?
There is a large percentage of our population voting population that has sent in their ballots by mail.
Correct.>> That is correct long that either.
Given the, the terminology has evolved, what most people refer to as absentee voter, absentee voter.
You know many states like California you don’t need an excuse.
You don’t have to justify that you You can’t show up in person to vote and therefore, you should be privileged to be able to receive a ballot in the mail.
Through note excuse vote by mail.
we now call those vouchers vote by mail ballots because you don’t need to The excuse and so but you’re right.
It’s nothing new in California and many states for that matter that have been promoting and growing vote by mill successfully for decades.
But 20 years ago, roughly, a quarter of valance cast might have been vote by mail ballot.
Just to show that the tremendous growth in popularity in our March 2020 primary, more than 70% of the ballots cast were vote by mail ballots either people receiving it at home and mailing it back.
people receiving it at home, maybe delivering it to a ballot Dropbox, receiving it at home and maybe dropping it off in person.
[UNKNOWN] voting location.
But the convenience and the comfort and receiving your ballot at home and filling it out at home is one that I think is very attractive to a lot of voters.
And again, as we began to prepare for the November election Through the context of the covid 19 pandemic, we decided let’s just afford this easy opportunity to every eligible or excuse me, every active registered voter in California so those ballots are arriving as we speak.
People have the same options for returning their ballot either by mail Nope, no stamps necessary return postage is prepaid.
voters can choose to deliver their ballot to any ballot Dropbox in their county, between now and Election Day, or folks can certainly walk it in and drop it off in person.
And we still have the backup for folks who need the in person option.
That is available as well both on and before election day.
And again because we are living under COVID.
You have the state has made the decision to reduce the number of in person polling places.
I would imagine that as partly because of we’re in a pandemic, but a lot of poll workers.
Typically the volunteers are elderly who are now at higher risk.
For this pandemic for this virus, so can you talk a little bit about how you made the decision to reduce the number of polling places, I guess, because you thought many people would mail in ballots but why don’t we just have you explain it.
Well, it’s a little bit more complex than that but ultimately ensuring that every voter has multiple options to vote and stay safe and healthy during the pandemic.
So, in addition to sending every active registered voter in the state of ballot in advance of the November election.
We think the vast majority of bounce will come back via mail.
The Chin’s are still important for voters who need it’s an accessibility concern.
Maybe they need language and maybe they need a replacement ballot.
Same Day registration.
So we were working with counties to ensure as many of these opportunities were available.
Now some counties are doing it the good old fashioned way the the regular neighborhood precincts if they have enough locations and enough poll workers to accomplish that.
Some counties are doing that others though, have run into challenges in securing.
Voting locations and recruiting poll workers.
Right let’s start with the locations first.
It does not make sense anymore to conduct voting in a neighbor’s garage, or to place a voting location in a retirement home for obvious reasons under COVID.
We’re trying to keep everybody safe and healthy.
We’re not just looking for replacement locations, but Larger facility that can accommodate physical distancing and some of the other measures that we need to incorporate into the in person voting experience.
And so if a county is struggling to meet the locations and or the poll workers They are allowed to consolidate and reduce the number of locations but in exchange, they have to commit to, at a minimum four days of in person voting not just Tuesday, November 3, so As a result, most counties are gonna offer early voting for at least, three, four days some more in addition to election day itself, so it’s actually a great menu of options for voters.
Receive your ballot in the mail, multiple options for how to return it if you choose to vote in person.
We encourage early voting to try to keep those lines a little bit shorter on election day because we’re expecting that big turnout.
Even the voting experience is gonna be different.
Just as we can’t go to the grocery store the same way anymore.
butters bring your mask expect the signage with physical distancing.
poll workers donning all the personal protective equipment they need the face shields, the gloves.
Plenty of hand sanitizer for everybody.
All the measures would need to make the in person voting experience safe for everybody.
Let me just ask you there’s been a lot of misinformation as we know about vote by mail.
Most of it is just that misinformation or disinformation.
We all know Then voting by mail is safe and secure and that the incident of widespread fraud is non existent.
That is a talking point for people to try to frighten people into doing their civic duty or perhaps to cast some illegitimacy over our elections in these countries.
So I just wanted to get that out of the way.
vote by mail is very secure.
I’m sure you have been saying this a lot.
But let’s just talk tactically, you have been talking about this very much and you’ve said one person, one vote.
So I mail in my ballot.
And there’s all of this misinformation about my dog can vote under my name or I can mail in multiple ballots.
Not true, but just talk us through the process that I’ve mailed in my ballot.
Where does it go?
Yeah, no great question.
And, I couldn’t laid it out better myself.
The false accusations of as a voter fraud are simply not true.
The data suggests otherwise voter fraud is exceedingly rare.
You know, one of the common lies you’ve heard lately, you know, and frankly unconscionable recommendations of anybody suggesting that voters try to vote twice to try to test the system.
You know, protocols are in place to protect against that.
If, when a voter votes by mail As the ballot arrives at their county elections office, their voter record is updated to reflect that.
They submitted their ballot.
If that same voter tries to vote in person, they won’t be allowed to because Monday check in, they’ll be totaled up this person has already voted.
The reverse is also true.
By the way, if you vote in person, your red is your record is immediately updated.
And so if your vote by mail ballot arrives after It will not be counted because you have cast a vote in person.
So again the protocols in place to protect the integrity of our elections, but for added transparency and I think this is actually a great tool for voters, voters in California can go to vote that ca Govt.
Click on where’s my ballot and sign up to receive automated alerts by email, by text message or by phone call on the status of their ballot through the postal delivery process, both on its way to the voter and on its way back to the county.
Kind of like when we try.
We track our packages over shopping online, including By the way, confirmation messages when your ballot has been received and when it has been counted.
So kinda measure the peace of mind that comes with that confirmation message.
Yep, your valid here.
Your vote has been counted.
It’s great transparency for voters.
Great accountability by the way for the Postal Service and a peace of mind and confidence in vote by mail.
So yes, there’s an app for that is what you’re saying.
[LAUGH] Just about not quite an app, but a subscription service.
And again you can do it by text message by email by phone call or all the above and not just in English either.
I just signed up my father to receive his a text messages on his phone in Spanish.
And we should just point out among the other disinformation that is out there I want it’s not misinformation.
It’s actually disinformation.
You cannot vote in any election.
This is not publicity contest for who’s the best singer.
Text by vote is not a way to vote in this election.
Can you just remind people.
How they can vote by?
By exactly and sadly we do see a lot of that from time to time.
You’re touching on this concern I do have about the power of misinformation and disinformation online.
Not just that, especially on social media.
So before I answer that specific question, For folks who have questions about registering or voting or anything elections related, go to the official source.
You can contact your local elections department or the Secretary of State in California it’s vote that ca that govt No, you cannot text in your votes even tougher.
You read that in your Twitter feed, don’t believe it.
You know, we can’t vote online.
Either I get asked that question a lot.
Can we vote online or why can’t we vote online?
Obviously, the security and privacy of the internet’s architecture isn’t built to protect the privacy and integrity of elections.
And so we can register to vote online.
You can track your ballot online.
We can monitor electoral results online, but the actual cast act of voting in California requires that paper ballot.
So if you vote by mail, obviously to paper about that comes to you.
If you vote in person, it’s paper ballot that you’re casting.
When do you think or do you think we’ll see voting through some sort of technology in the future?
I mean, yes, you’re right.
It’s all about security and verifying that.
I am who I say I am casting this vote, but we do have facial recognition technology and I don’t know fingerprint tech.
I mean, is that something that you imagine that we’ll see in the next five or 10 years.
Look, I think it’s some point in the future, probably, but not anytime soon.
You know, we just keep monitoring cybersecurity news.
If it’s not a retailer, it’s a government agency.
If it’s not a government agency, it could be a health care provider.
If it’s was not a health care provider it could be a movie studio or even a political party.
Or a political candidate.
So, until we stop reading about hacks and breaches, I don’t think we’re anywhere near trusting our precious right to vote to an online transaction, the biggest difference being If something happens with my credit card accounts, but I can challenge that with my bank, we can rectify it later and be made whole.
You can’t do that after the fact in an election.
Our vote is private.
And so it’s both the privacy and the security of our votes that we need to maintain.
Okay, so one of the things that has come up is that people who are casting their ballots by mouth, some maybe for the first time, perhaps are not completing the documentation correctly.
And we’re seeing some votes being rejected at a time when people are very civically engaged and want to make sure their vote counts.
So what are the things that people should make sure they do?
To make sure their vote counts when they’re filling in that vote by mail.
Great question, especially in this November 2020.
election because we have so many new voters now on the rolls that have just registered in recent years and frankly I expect a lot of.
First time in a longtime voters to be participating and as we’ve expanded vote by mail significantly, there’s two big pieces of recommendation that I have to ensure a smooth experience.
Number one, remember to sign the return envelope.
When you receive a vote by mail ballot, you’ll receive an official return envelope Which I posted on prepaid.
So you insert your completed ballot into the official envelope.
Of course you seal it and you sign it and you date it.
And the signature is important because that is what we compare to the signature on file which is part of your voter registration record to confirm the identity of the voter.
In our protections against voter fraud, so if you forget to sign the envelope, or the say enter doesn’t match because for some of us our signature has changed over time.
The county is required to contact the voter and offer an opportunity to cure that issue.
So if you’re getting a phone call right after the election from your county elections office, you may want to take it or return that email, or text message, whatever it is.
And so that is one of the big categories of ballots, even with a low rate of a disqualification every votes important so we’re, Remember to sign, the other reason for why some balance may be disqualified is they simply arrived too late, or percent too late.
So voters need to understand in California, the law does allow for votes to be counted as long as they’re postmarked on or before election day.
This November the deadline to arrive is 17 days after the election.
So even if they arrive late, they will still be counted as long as they are postmarked on or before election day.
So keep those timeframes in mind.
You can’t mail it off the day after the election.
If you have your ballot enhanced on election day, double check before you just leave it in a mailbox to make sure that the mail hasn’t collected for that day.
right because then it won’t be postmarked until the next day.
So mail it sooner rather than later if possible.
If it’s election day, maybe you’re better off dropping it off at a ballot, dropbox Or at a voting location.
But to remember the deadline to return and to sign the outside of the envelope and for the ultimate and peace of mind, like I said before, sign up for where’s my ballot and get those automated alerts.
Okay, one more question just about process.
And that is there has been a lot of concern and again, some of it misinformation about the post offices ability To process the number of ballots that we’re expecting to see again record voter turnout in California as expected.
Are you in touch with postal officials here in the state?
And do you have any concerns about their ability to stamp those ballots as they receive them and postmark them correctly?
Yes, so just as vote by mail is nothing new in California, neither is our close working relationship with regional and local Postal Service representatives.
So, I think that the time frames that we Have built into the California vote by mail process gives ample time for bounce both to arrive at the voter to the voter and return back to the county vote by mail ballots that the deadline was 29 days before the election for counties to mail out ballots.
So even if there’s delays on the outbound Plenty of time for voters to receive them and mailed them back for voters returning ballots, again, postmarked on or before election day and they can have up to 17 days after the election and still be counted, but the other beauty of our, of our.
Structure here as voters have options for how to return it if you’re a little hesitant, a little reluctant, you can take it to Dropbox, drop it off in an in person voting location.
And for amp into the utmost transparency, sign up for where’s my ballot and track your ballot in I get those confirmation messages when they’ve been received and when it’s been counted.
Okay, so everyone does everything right they vote early.
They don’t worry about a stamp.
They sign in date their ballot if they’re voting by mail, they take it to drop off points.
Well before the postmark date is due, all of that happens.
We all are watching TV on November 3, as we are wanting to do it.
Watching the results come in, because there’s gonna be such a high percentage of people voting by mail and those votes need to be counted.
Talk to us about what the next I don’t know.
10 2030 days looks like after the election.
When will we know What’s the California vote was?
So Good, good, good.
It’s everybody’s anxious for the results once the poll is closed, right.
So the first thing to keep in mind is election night.
Not results night.
Right especially with such an increase in turnout and an increase in vote by mail.
Election workers have a gonna have a lot of work on their hands.
So if California is very familiar with this dynamic come election night, we have a decent sense of how most contests are going to turn out, given the early vote by mail returns the The ballots that were cast on election day, but for close contests and for final results, it literally does take weeks.
California law allows counties about a month to finish processing ballots, auditing ballots and even certifying results.
Before, we declare official winners here and it’s all for good reasons, right?
It’s in the weeks after the election that the signature verification continues because we want to ensure the integrity of vote by mail.
We’re affording voters the opportunity to cure any signature issues.
Ballots are being counted and and results are being updated and of course want to audit the results before we certify them.
So takes a few weeks to finalize all that the difference this year is this.
We’re seeing a big growth in vote by mail for the first time.
In other states states like Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and others, where if the presidential contest in those battleground states or is too close to call on election night It’s there’s a chance that we may not know who the winner is.
I would warn against candidates claiming victory when there’s still a lot of ballots that are made to be counted.
Right if it takes a few more days to to process enough bouts to get a picture as to who the winner is, that’s not the time to panic.
Its attempt to be patient.
Certainly not fall for any conspiracy theories or disinformation you’ll come across online.
As with anything else elections related, for efficient reliable information, contact your elections office or the Secretary of State.>> Go ahead and say the website one more time.>> Vote that ca that Govt.
That’s where you can register to vote if you haven’t done it already.
Verify your registration status sign up for where’s my ballot to track your ballot through the process, cybersecurity information, voting location information, even how to sign up to be a poll broker or vote.
Dot ca dot govt.
Okay, last question for you.
I’ve already said that I’m a vote by mail person.
We know the President of the United States President Trump and his wife will be also voting by mail if they haven’t already done so.
How are you voting this year, man?
I will be voting by mail this year and let me also preface that with as convenient as it is and as much as I believe in it.
I just love the in person experience.
His typically we like to bring the kids and make a big deal about celebrating our US exercising our right to vote but given COVID we will be voting via mail this year.
We’ll do from the comfort and see Safety our home, probably snap a few selfies and then deliver our valid to a local mailbox.
Well there is that hashtag I voted so you can participate that way.