COVID-19 Changes Voting Options For Santa Barbara County
Journalist Isla Vista Beat
This year, registered California voters demonstrated a record number of early votes. With COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, Santa Barbara County voters threw near 140,000 mail-in ballots effective November 1, with almost all of these ballots accepted by the county.
According to Joseph E. Holland Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder, Evaluator, and Election Department (CARE), every registered voter in the state of California this year received a mail-in ballot to discourage in-person voting.
“We’ve never voted 100% by mail in California before,” Holland said in an interview with The Bottom Line.
In the Isla Vista and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) area, there will be two polling stations this year: the Isla Vista Community Center and the Linda Vista room at Santa Catalina undergraduate university residence. Another polling station near the Isla Vista area is located at Hilton garden inn on Hollister Avenue and Glenn Annie Road.
Starting October 31, Isla Vista’s offices will be open for the first time before election day. “These will be open from 8 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, and Monday from 9 am to 6 pm,” said Holland.
On polling day, these polling stations will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm UCSB students can also drop off their postal ballots at the drop box in front of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol Station located at 6504 Trigo Road.
To protect the health and safety of in-person voters and polling officers, Holland explained that the Santa Barbara County Election Division is doing “nine yards” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The security measures put in place include full personal protective equipment for polling officers, imposed requirements to follow social distancing protocols and the disinfection of offices between voters. Voters are also required to wear masks at all times.
“We’ll provide masks if you don’t have any,” Holland said.
Holland also noted that statistics for Oct. 30 show a total of 235,000 registered voters in Santa Barbara County and 127,000 votes returned. The resulting 54% turnout four days before polling day suggests that county polling stations are less likely to attract large crowds and long lines.
Holland also highlighted how the county is developing precautions for other security concerns, such as potential unrest over election results. While no threats are anticipated, the county is working proactively with the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement authorities.
“We are prepared on a number of levels,” said Holland. “Whether it’s a fire or a protest, or a power outage, or people receiving COVID-19 at a polling station.”
Additionally, Holland urges students who may use alternative voting methods to avoid waiting until election day on November 3 to vote in person. “There is no reason to wait until Tuesday,” he said.
“If students have to change their address to register to vote in Isla Vista, they can do so on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and even on polling day,” he continued.