.County Prepares For Election Day Under Extraordinary Circumstances

With Election Day less than two months away, Santa Cruz County elections officials are preparing to conduct an election beset by twin calamities—fires that ravaged the county and displaced tens of thousands, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin says that two executive orders recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom will allow her department to safely carry out the Nov. 3 election.

“Covid-19 and the CZU fires have changed how we will conduct this November 3 election,” Pellerin said in a press release. “We have launched a Vote Safe Santa Cruz campaign to make sure voters have plenty of options to cast their ballot without risking their health and safety.”

One change for the November election is that county elections officials will mail a ballot to all registered voters in California as a way to slow the spread of Covid-19 by allowing people to vote from home.

Ballots will be mailed by Oct. 5, then daily for new registrants or people who have updated their registration. 

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Voters who have been impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex fire do not need to re-register to vote, Pellerin said. They can fill out a change of address form on the County Elections Department’s website at votescount.us. The mailing address can be a place of work, the home of a family member or friend, or a post office box.

Residents can also go to an in-person location to get a ballot or sign up to receive a ballot via email.

“Ballots cannot be forwarded,” Pellerin said. “So, if you signed up for your mail to be forwarded through the USPS, you still need to update your mailing address with us. Otherwise, your ballot will be returned to us as undeliverable.”

Pellerin also said voters should sign up to track their ballot at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov. Voters will get email or text alerts when their ballot is mailed, when it is received by the county elections office and if there is any problem with counting the ballot.

Voters can additionally sign up for free informed delivery through the United States Postal Service. 

Even though ballots will be mailed to all voters, counties must also provide in-person voting. However, Santa Cruz County will not have traditional polling places. Instead, voters can go to any one of at least 17 voting locations to return their ballot or get a replacement ballot, among several other services.

Voters do not have to return the ballot through the mail, although that is a safe option, Pellerin said.

“There has been concern about the United States Postal Service’s ability to manage the amount of election mail California will have this fall,” she noted in a press release. “Postal reps have reassured elections officials that they can manage the mail and ballots will not be delayed.”

The elections department is providing several options to return ballots:

Drop Boxes

The ballot drop boxes will be located at the following locations and available 24/7 until 8pm on Nov. 3:

  • Aptos – Public Library, 7695 Soquel Drive
  • Aptos – Polo Grounds, 2255 Huntington Drive
  • Aptos – Cabrillo College by football stadium, 3732 Cabrillo College Drive
  • Ben Lomond – Highlands Park, 8500 Highway 9
  • Boulder Creek – Library, 13390 W. Park Ave.: Walk up (may have to be relocated due to the fires)
  • Capitola – City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave.
  • Capitola – Shopping Mall (near Sears), 1855 41st Ave.
  • Felton – Covered Bridge Park, Mt. Hermon/Graham Hill Road
  • Santa Cruz – County Gov. Center, 701 Ocean St.
  • Santa Cruz – Public Library, 212 Church St.
  • Santa Cruz – UCSC Quarry Plaza: Walk up
  • Scotts Valley – City Hall, 1 Civic Center Drive
  • Watsonville – Parking Lot 14, 316 Rodriguez St.
  • Watsonville – County Health Center, 1430 Freedom Blvd.
  • Watsonville – Corralitos Community Center, 35 Browns Valley Road
  • County Elections, Simpkins Swim Center and City Clerks will have ballot return boxes.

Voters may also return their ballot inside one of the locations below that are open during regular business hours:

  • County Elections: 701 Ocean St., Room 310, Santa Cruz      
  • Santa Cruz City Clerk: 809 Center St., Santa Cruz
  • Simpkins Swim Center: 979 17th Ave., Santa Cruz         
  • Capitola City Clerk: 420 Capitola Ave., Capitola  
  • Scotts Valley City Clerk: 1 Civic Center Drive, Scotts Valley      
  • Watsonville City Clerk: 275 Main St., Watsonville

Voting locations 

Some of these sites may have to be relocated due to fire damage or being used for a shelter or other emergency purpose: 

  • Aptos – Temple Beth El, 3055 Porter Gulch Road
  • Boulder Creek – Boulder Creek Recreation Hall, 13333 Middleton Road
  • Capitola – New Brighton Middle School, 250 Washburn Ave.
  • Felton – San Lorenzo Valley High School, 7105 Highway 9
  • Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz County Clerk/Elections, 701 Ocean St., Room 310
  • Santa Cruz – Simpkins Swim Center, 979 17th Ave.
  • Santa Cruz – Bonny Doon Elementary School, 1492 Pine Flat Road
  • Santa Cruz – Kaiser Permanente Arena, 140 Front St.
  • Santa Cruz – Masonic Center, 828 N. Branciforte Ave.
  • Santa Cruz – Natural Bridges School, 255 Swift St.
  • Scotts Valley – Scott Valley Community Center, 360 Kings Village Road
  • Scotts Valley – SV High School, 555 Glenwood Drive
  • Soquel – Soquel Conference Center, 1931 Old San Jose Road
  • Watsonville – Watsonville City Clerk Office/Community Room, 250 Main St., 6th Floor
  • Watsonville – Pajaro Valley Community Trust, 85 Nielson St.
  • Watsonville – La Selva Beach Clubhouse, 314 Estrella Ave.
  • Watsonville – Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 East Lake Ave.
  • Watsonville – Calabasas Elementary School, 202 Calabasas Road
  • Santa Cruz – UCSC, Merrill Cultural Center, open only Nov. 2 from 8am-5pm and Nov. 3, from 7am-8pm

Unless otherwise noted, the above sites will be open during the following times:

  • Saturday, Oct. 31 from 9am-5pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1 from 9am-5pm
  • Monday, Nov. 2 from 8am-5pm
  • Tuesday, Nov. 3 from 7am-8pm

Voting locations will also have ballot return boxes. The Santa Cruz County Clerk/Elections Office at 701 Ocean St., Room 310, and the Watsonville City Clerk’s Office located at 250 Main St., 6th floor, will be open beginning Oct. 5 for voters who want to get a ballot in person.

To learn more, visit the County Elections Department’s website votescount.us.

Click here to see all of our ongoing 2020 election coverage.


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