Sacramento election officials prepare for two threats: coronavirus and voter intimidation

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Leaders in counties across California say they are putting safety first at the polls to ensure election integrity this year.

“Obviously, in the age of a global pandemic, it makes our vote centers look a little bit different,” said Janna Haynes, a Sacramento County Registrar of Voters spokesperson. “It makes our customer service look a little bit different.”

With increased concern about health during the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters are making their voices heard in less traditional ways, such as mailing in their paper ballots or slipping them into drop boxes to avoid the large crowds on Nov. 3.

“A no-contact option is obviously the safest option when it comes to COVID, but we understand that people might not trust the USPS system… and feel awkward about sticking their ballot in a metal box,” Haynes said. “So we have all three options so people can do it the safest way.”

For those who prefer in-person voting at a polling place, preparations are already underway to ensure a safe experience. In Sacramento County, weeks before welcoming voters, elections workers can be seen spraying down touchless voting machines and wiping down surfaces.

“We’re definitely taking a lot of precautions to make sure that people who want to take advantage of voting in person can do so safely,” Haynes said.

This season, election workers are also preparing for a different threat: voter intimidation, something that Haynes says if caught, will not go unpunished.

“We have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior,” Haynes said. “Our goal is to make the vote as accessible to everyone as possible and to make sure they feel safe and secure while casting their ballot. They shouldn’t face intimidation, they shouldn’t face harassment, and they shouldn’t have to worry about their safety.”

Election officials are also keeping their eyes out for fake drop boxes — like the ones reported in southern California. Officials encourage voters to check online for the county’s 71 official drop boxes to ensure that their vote is being counted.

“If there’s a drop box that’s not on that list, I would be wary of it and we’d certainly want to know about it,” Haynes said.

Monday, Oct. 19 is the last day to register to vote in California. For more information and to register online, click or tap here.

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