Early voting, including postal voting, in this election has decimated records in states across the country, including California, where more than 6.5 million ballots have already been returned, according to the state.
Yet over the weekend, California voters lined up to vote early at dozens of newly opened polling stations, including, for the first time, Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers. Hundreds more will open on October 30.
On Thursday, I spoke with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla about what voters should know at the end of the period, especially if they plan to vote in person. Here’s our conversation, slightly edited for clarity:
How are things going? What is the biggest challenge you are concerned about right now?
Californians vote in large numbers. We’re about 2.5 times where we were at this point in 2016, if that’s any indicator.
We’ve been planning and preparing for months. And if voter registration and early returns are any indication, there will be a high turnout.
But we don’t take anything for granted, so we are on high alert, including election news or misinformation.
I know that, relatively speaking, the Crash republican ballot box touched few voters. But it got a lot of attention and raised a lot of concerns. What’s the latest on this situation? And what should voters know?
The latest is that the Attorney General and I have issued cease and desist orders and have requested the removal of unauthorized unofficial ballot boxes. Unofficial boxes were removed, but other elements of our inquiries were not honored. So the Attorney General has issued subpoenas and we are taking the matter to court.
[Read more about the California Republican Party’s misleadingly labeled ballot boxes from The New York Times here. | Read the latest on the fight from The Los Angeles Times here.]
In the meantime, we are working hard to inform voters of their many options for returning their ballots.
Return shipping costs are prepaid and they can also return them to any official drop box in their county. If they have cast their ballot in an unofficial ballot box, they should register for “Where’s my ballot?” or contact their county by email, text or phone call to confirm that their ballot has been received.
If not, they can contact their county to request a replacement ballot if necessary.
But that’s part of the additional information sought by the cease-and-desist order, and the Republican Party did not provide: how many ballot boxes there were, how many ballots they collected , which makes it more difficult to educate the voters concerned. So these efforts continue.
[How to find an official ballot box near you.]
What are you telling the counties about how to keep voters safe if they go to the polls? What should they know poll observers or other people who may be at the polls but do not vote?
We go through every election. We want to make sure the elections are as safe as possible and secure during a global pandemic.
Sensitivities are certainly heightened in November 2020, but we have reminded counties and pollsters of what state law says. Election observation is allowed, but that’s just it: observation.
We have a Voters Bill of Rights which states that voters are free to vote without harassment or intimidation. Polling officers are properly trained to answer questions and defuse situations, if necessary.
We encourage the public to let us know if they see anything. We have a statewide election hotline that is already active. We have developed protocols to work with the counties in the event of a problem.
[Read California’s full Voter Bill of Rights here.]
Do you have specific areas that you are monitoring?
One final thought for voters who are considering voting in person?
I compare it to going to the grocery store: it’s not the same thing anymore.
Expect to see signage for physical distance, material wiped between voters, hand sanitizer everywhere. We want in-person voting to remain as safe, healthy and accessible as possible – for voters and election workers.
[See The Times’s full voter guide for Californians, with information about how, when and where to cast your ballot. | Leer en español.]
Learn more about the election:
Find out where to vote with this interactive. [The New York Times]
Learn more about Proposition 22. [The New York Times]
Representative Nancy Pelosi said she will run for another term as President of the House. [The New York Times]
Many progressives mistrust senator Kamala Harris for her past as a prosecutor. A former convict – and also the son of a crime victim – explained why it was not that simple. [The New York Times Magazine]
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New fires broke out and residents of Northern California faced power outages under the effect of hurricane-type winds, increasing the risk of fire. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
Follow updates on new fires. [Record Searchlight]
And check out updates on power outages. [The Sacramento Bee]
the the waters off Catalina Island have become a dumping ground for DDT. But even as the chemical was banned and cleanups ordered, the contamination of the deep sea has become murky – until now. [The Los Angeles Times]
Rural California is divided and armed for revolt. But this was the case in the self-proclaimed “State of Jefferson” for decades. Is this year different? [The Sacramento Bee]
A man who identified himself as far-right Boogaloo Bois has been accused of shooting at a police station in Minneapolis during protests after the murder of George Floyd. Federal authorities say he contacted the man accused of killing a federal officer in Oakland during the protests. [The Minneapolis Star Tribune]
Learn more about Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant with links to an anti-government movement, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder linked to that murder. [The New York Times]
Governor Gavin Newsom said Sunday will be Larry Itliong’s day. Learn more about the legacy of the Filipino union leader here. [The New York Times]
Two masked (and furry) youths have been charged with breaking into a Bay Area bank. But they were driven out by the Peninsula Humane Society without incident. (OK, those were juvenile raccoons.) [SF Gate]
This year there is no spray in baseball. Not before the end of the World Series, anyway. (Although, thanks to a chaotic end to the flip-flop of a game on Saturday night, the Dodgers and Rays have yet to get there.) [The New York Times]
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at UC Berkeley, and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she still wants see more. Follow us here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.