Strong early voter turnout in Lake Tahoe communities

Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe is hosting an in-person voting center through Nov. 3.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

In spite of the pandemic, there has been strong early voter turnout in communities surrounding Lake Tahoe.

In March of 2020, El Dorado County changed the way people could vote by mailing ballots to all registered voters and allowing them to either mail them back, drop them off or vote in person at a voting center.

“Prior to that [switch], 80% of voters mailed in their ballots anyway so going to 100% wasn’t that big of a change,” El Dorado County Registrar of Voters Bill O’Neill said.

El Dorado County has 133,251 active voters and as of Thursday, Oct. 15, 30,886 ballots have been returned. About 51% of those were dropped off at ballot boxes and 49% were mailed in. Only 125 of those ballots have been challenged.

O’Neill said the ballot boxes are collected everyday by a registered employ and must be dropped off at the office the same day. They are opened within 24-48 hours so voters can know if their signature has been accepted. With their strict chain of custody for the ballots, O’Neill assures voters their ballots are safe.

“Voting by mail is one of the safest things you can do during a pandemic,” O’Neill said.

The voting centers open on Halloween and O’Neill expects there to be long lines.

“We ask people voting at the vote centers to be patient and enjoy the process of voting,” O’Neill said.

In California, mail ballots are processed before Election Day so as long as voters get their ballots in before 6 p.m. on Monday Nov. 2, O’Neill said their votes will be included in the Election Day results.

Drop off locations in South Lake Tahoe include a 24-hour drive up box at the library located at 1000 Rufus Allen Blvd; from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Holiday Market at 2977 U.S. Highway 50 and at Grocery Outlet from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 2358 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

In-person voting centers are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 31 at Lake Tahoe Community College, at 1 College Dr., and at California conservation Corps at 1949 Apache Ln.

Washoe County also mailed ballots to all 298,642 registered voters. As of Thursday, 34,544 voters have returned ballots. A little over 8,000 of those ballots came from Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula said in a press conference that she feels confident in the safety of the election, adding that testing of the process has gone really well, the ballot drop-off boxes are all manned and she feels that the country is really well prepared.

As of Wednesday, 4,940 mail-in ballots were accepted in Douglas County which is 13% of the 38,487 ballots that were mailed out. Only 2% of those need a signature cure.

In-person voting in both Washoe and Douglas Counties begins Saturday, Oct. 17. Voters who want to vote in-person must bring in their mail-in ballot to surrender or sign a legal document stating they will not vote in-person and by-mail, ensuring everyone only gets one vote.

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