Final results from the June 5 Statewide Primary Election have been reported and Sacramento County’s first election under the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) is one for the books. We sat down with Alice Jarboe, Interim Registrar of Voters for Sacramento County, to catch up on how the election went and learn more about what we can expect for future elections.
How did it go?
With Sacramento County being the largest of the five counties to implement the VCA beginning with the June Primary Election, the pressure was on. The implementation took months and months of planning and coordination by all Sacramento County Department of Voter Registration and Elections (DVRE) staff and what resulted, was a very successful election where voter turnout reached 42 percent, significantly surpassing the 2014 Statewide Primary Election of 29.6 percent.
Voters in Sacramento County were very receptive to the new voting model and took advantage of the Vote by Mail option, returning a record breaking amount, higher than the past three Primary Elections. In fact, based on the results from the Voter Experience Survey, 79 percent of respondents said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their overall voting experience.
What were the top three questions the department received?
Voting Model Security
Every precaution was taken to safeguard the system and all data is housed on a secure closed network with no internet connection. Additionally, access to the system and ballots is limited to authorized employees under 24/7 surveillance and all staff, both permanent and temporary are sworn in as election officers and anytime there is a ballot in the room, there are always two or more people present.
Ballot Processing and Counting
This year, the results released on election night were different than in years past. While they still included any Vote by Mail (VBM) ballots received by June 2, the difference was the low volume of in-person votes from Vote Centers. In total, there were only 18,104 in-person votes and 106,505 VBM ballots to report election night. Since the majority of voters waited until June 5 to return their VBM ballot, those were not included in the initial results but counted in the days and weeks after the election.
Drop Box and Vote Center Locations/Hours of Operation
Under the VCA, traditional polling places were replaced with 78 Vote Centers where voters could go to any open location to register, drop their ballot off or vote in person. Additionally, we more than tripled the number of secure Drop Box locations.
Although we do encourage residents to make a plan for how they want to return their ballot, there was some confusion over Drop Box locations hours of operation. Since these were inside the designated facilities, they were only accessible during the facilities business hours but moving forward, we will be working with facilities to have more uniform hours for all the locations. Additionally, we will be redesigning the maps and reference pages in the CVIG and VBM packet to more clearly provide that information to voters.
What can we expect for future elections?
Higher voter turnout. This is an incredibly exciting time and we expect to see increased voter turnout in the November 2018 election. As more voters become familiar with the new voting model, we anticipate more VBM ballots being returned so we are working to prepare for that.
Additional outreach. Based on my 20 years of experience at DVRE, I have found that it takes at least two to three elections for voters to really acclimate to voting changes. As this is the case, we will continue our efforts to educate all residents in Sacramento County about the changes to voting under the VCA and all of the opportunities available to them.
With the November election around the corner, Sacramento County residents can expect to see additional outreach in the coming months. For more information about upcoming elections, registration information or the VCA, visit DVRE’s website.