Early voting, including voting by mail, 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.
Still, over the weekend, California voters lined up to cast their ballots early at dozens of newly open polling places, including, for the first time, Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers. Hundreds more will open on Oct. 30.
On Thursday, I talked with California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, about what voters should know in the homestretch, especially if they’re planning to vote in person. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited for clarity:
How are things going? What’s the biggest challenge on your mind right now?
Californians are voting in big 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, it’s going to be a big turnout.
But we’re not taking anything for granted, so we’re on alert, including election information or disinformation.
I know that, relatively speaking, the Republican ballot drop box fracas has affected few voters. But it did get a lot of attention and caused widespread concern. What’s the latest on that situation? And what should voters know about it?
The latest is that the attorney general and I issued cease-and-desist orders and asked for the removal of the unauthorized unofficial ballot drop boxes. The unofficial boxes have been removed, but other elements of our requests for information have not been complied with. So the attorney general has issued subpoenas and we’re 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’re working hard to let voters know about their many options for returning their ballots.
Return postage is prepaid and they can also return them to any official drop box in their county. If they may have dropped their ballots in an unofficial drop box, they should sign up for “Where’s My Ballot?” or contact their county by email, text or phone call for confirmation that their ballot has been received.
If it hasn’t, they can contact their county to request a replacement ballot if necessary.
But that’s part of the additional information that the cease-and-desist order is seeking, and the Republican Party has not provided: the number of ballot boxes there were, how many ballots they collected, which is making it harder to educate affected voters. So those efforts continue.
[How to find an official ballot box near you.]
What are you telling counties about how to ensure that voters are safe if they’re heading to the polls? What should they know about poll observers or other people who may be at the polls but not voting?
We go through this every single election. We want to make sure elections are as secure as possible and safe during a global pandemic.
Sensitivities are certainly heightened in November of 2020, but we’ve reminded counties and poll workers of what state law says. Election observation is allowed, but it’s only that: observation.
We have a voters’ Bill of Rights that says voters are free to cast their ballot without any harassment or intimidation. Poll workers are properly trained to field questions and de-escalate situations, if they arise.
We encourage the public to let us know if they see anything. We have a statewide voter hotline that’s already active. We’ve developed protocols to work with counties if anything arises.
[Read California’s full Voter Bill of Rights here.]
Do you have any particular areas you’re keeping an eye on?
Not as of yet.
Any last thoughts for voters who are planning to vote in person?
I compare it to going to the grocery store: It’s not the same anymore.
Expect to see the signage for physical distancing, equipment being wiped down between voters, hand sanitizer everywhere. We want to keep in-person voting as safe, healthy and accessible as possible — for voters and election workers alike.
Read more about the election:
Find out where to cast your ballot with this interactive. [The New York Times]
Read more about Proposition 22. [The New York Times]
Representative Nancy Pelosi said she’ll run for another term as House speaker. [The New York Times]
Many progressives mistrust Senator Kamala Harris for her past as a prosecutor. An ex-convict — and also the son of a crime victim — wrote about why it’s not that simple. [The New York Times Magazine]
Here’s what else you may have missed
New fires ignited and residents across Northern California faced blackouts as hurricane-type winds hit, increasing the danger of blazes. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
Follow updates on the new fires. [Record Searchlight]
And see updates on power outages. [The Sacramento Bee]
The waters off Catalina Island became a DDT dumping ground. But even as the chemical was banned and cleanups ordered, the deep sea contamination faded into obscurity — until now. [The Los Angeles Times]
Rural California is divided and armed for revolt. But that’s been the case in the self-proclaimed “State of Jefferson” for decades. Is this year different? [The Sacramento Bee]
A man who identified as part of the far-right Boogaloo Bois was accused of firing on a police precinct in Minneapolis during the protests after the killing of George Floyd. The federal authorities say he communicated with the man accused of killing a federal officer in Oakland during the protests there. [The Minneapolis Star Tribune]
Read more about Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant linked to an anti-government movement, who was charged with murder and attempted murder related to the killing. [The New York Times]
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared Sunday to be Larry Itliong Day. Read more about the Filipino labor leader’s legacy here. [The New York Times]
Two masked (and furry) youths were accused of breaking into a Bay Area bank. But they were shooed out by the Peninsula Humane Society without incident. (OK, they were juvenile raccoons.) [SF Gate]
This year, there’s no spraying in baseball. Not until the end of the World Series, anyway. (Although, thanks to a chaotic ending to a seesaw of a game on Saturday night, the Dodgers and the Rays haven’t gotten there yet.) [The New York Times]
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.