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For the first time, all registered voters in California will receive a ballot in the mail, whether they requested a vote-by-mail ballot or not.

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the change to election procedures for the November 3, 2020, statewide general election because of uncertainty about the safety of voting at a crowded polling place while COVID-19 remains a threat to health.

In addition to the governor’s order, the Legislature passed and the governor signed Assembly Bill 860, which similarly requires all counties to mail a ballot to every registered voter. Ballots may be returned by mail, dropped off at a polling place or deposited in a ballot drop-box where available.

If you vote by mail, remember to sign the ballot envelope. Without a valid signature, the ballot cannot be counted.

AB 860 also requires counties to offer all voters the option of casting a ballot using a certified remote accessible vote-by-mail system. This technology allows voters to mark their ballot using their own home computer or other device, then print the ballot using their own printer. The printed ballot is then mailed to the county election offices, where an employee copies the voter’s choices onto an official ballot to be scanned and tallied.

Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted if they arrive at county offices up to 17 days after November 3. That, too, is a change in the law. Previously, counties were required to accept ballots only three days after the election.

Ballots will be mailed to households beginning on or about October 5. This is a good opportunity to contact friends and neighbors to encourage them to watch the mail for their ballot. Inform them about the important propositions that will be before the voters in this election, as well as any local measures they may not be aware of.

Voters may give their completed ballots to another person to be dropped off at a post office, polling place or ballot drop-box. If you live in a community where some residents would welcome that assistance, don’t hesitate to offer. It’s perfectly legal to deliver someone else’s ballot for them. Just be sure they’ve signed the ballot envelope after sealing their ballot inside.

Another way to help is by encouraging eligible voters to register to vote. It’s easy and secure to register online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov, and they can do it right on their phone. Anyone who is already registered to vote may check the status of their voter registration at that same link to make sure everything is still correct.

Although many voters are expected to opt for the ease of voting by mail, counties will also provide in-person polling locations. Check with the office of your county Registrar of Voters for addresses and early voting options.

If you vote by mail, you’ll be able to follow the progress of your ballot using the secretary of state’s ballot-tracking system or a similar system in your county.

Then get ready to be patient. Because vote-by-mail ballots take more time to process than ballots cast at a polling place, the increased reliance on mail balloting means the results of some elections may not be known for days or even weeks.

Before you vote, be sure to check for updates to our Election Information pages, your source for the only official HJTA endorsements, as well as the list of candidates who have signed HJTA’s Pledge to Stand Up for Taxpayers.

However you choose to cast your ballot, please don’t miss this important election. Every vote counts in the battle to protect Proposition 13.