County aims to boost voter turnout by sending mail-in ballots for 2020 primary election

New model replaces traditional polling places with Vote Centers

More than 900,000 eligible voters in Santa Clara County will receive ballots in the mail for the March 2020 primary election in a statewide effort to increase voter participation.

County supervisors on Tuesday approved implementation of the Voter's Choice Act model, which went became state law in 2016 under then-Gov. Jerry Brown. Five counties piloted the model in 2018, including Napa, San Mateo and Sacramento counties. The successful pilot program revealed a significant jump in turnout and faster vote tabulation by as much as two weeks.

The model allows residents to submit their ballots by mail and drop-off centers, but traditional polling places will be replaced by Vote Centers, which will offer replacement ballots, accessible voting machines, registration services and assistance. They will also be equipped with electronic poll books to check if a resident has already cast their vote.

The county will open 125 Vote Centers for all residents, instead of polling places for specific neighborhoods or precincts. About 25 will be open 10 days before the election and 100 will be open three days before.

The system overhaul will cost about $2 million in staffing, printing, postage and outreach, with approximately $5 million in ongoing costs.

"The new process makes sense. It's a net plus for our voters," Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian said in a statement. "But it's a big change. We'll have to work hard to communicate the new process to the public."

— Bay City News Service

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