SLO County 2021 voter survey now open
–San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong is asking voters to participate in the San Luis Obispo County 2021 Voter Survey available at www.slovote.com. 2020 was an eventful year of elections, starting with the March 3 Primary Election, followed by the historic Nov. 3 Presidential General Election. Both elections set records: highest number of registered voters, most ballots cast, and the highest number of vote-by-mail ballots, respectively, for primary and general elections in the county’s history.
During the primary, the county conducted a typical polling place election, while the general election required many changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In compliance with Governor Newsom’s executive orders followed by state legislation to codify the changes, counties were required to send a vote by mail ballot to all registered voters. In response to large numbers of poll worker and polling place cancellations over safety concerns, counties were allowed to have fewer in-person voting locations (in our case, 23 voter service centers in Nov. vs. 75 polling places in March), but they were larger locations where poll workers and voters could physically distance and be provided personal protective equipment. Further, instead of being open only for Election Day, four days of voting were required to give voters additional days to cast their ballots in person. Voters could go to any voter service center within the county to vote in person.
The operation at voter service centers required much more technology to perform live check-in of voters and print the specific ballots on which they were entitled to vote based on their residence address. At the same time, due to capacity limits and prioritization, the following communities did not have a voting location: Cayucos, Creston, Shandon, Santa Margarita, and San Miguel.
At a record-breaking 184,050 registered voters, along with an unprecedented number of ballots cast of 162,615, the county had a turnout percentage of 88.35-percent, shattering the previous record of 83.14-percent set in 2008. Significantly shifted was the number of voters voting by mail compared to those voting in person: 152,741 voted by mail (93.93-percent of voters), while 9,874 voted in person (6.07-percent of voters).
The county says that it is at a crossroads in how to conduct future elections and wants voters to chime in. “I want to hear from voters how they would like elections to be conducted,” said Gong. “I also want to increase public confidence in elections, so this survey will give voters a chance to voice their concerns or provide any input. My recommendation to the Board of Supervisors will reflect voters’ preferences, as well as logistical support and cost considerations.” With a possible recall election at the end of the year, it is an opportunity for the county to go back to polling places or continue with a voter service center operation.
Gong plans to present to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors the differences between polling place and vote center elections on May 4, followed by a recommendation during the county’s budget hearings in June whether to support voter service center elections, which requires additional budget support. Early results of the survey will be presented on May 4, and complete results from a May 25 cut-off will be presented in June.