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SLO County opens up election process to neighbors ahead of September 14

Staff member processing the ballots
Posted at 7:00 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 10:00:30-04

Check your mailboxes, the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election is underway and ballots are already heading to the county office for processing. Community members can watch part of that process as it happens.

This week they’re processing ballots – opening and inspecting them and next week they will start the scanning process. People can call in and ask to watch how ballots are handled. All ahead of the September 14 election.

“California approved recalls in 1911, and since then there have been 179 attempts against state elected officials, but the 2003 recall was the only other gubernatorial recall to ever make it to the ballot," said The Deputy Director, and County Clerk Recorder Helen Nolan.

The 2021 California recall election is happening this month and when the county receives ballots, envelopes are scanned to capture the voter signature.

Nolan explained about the ballot: “once that's checked in as good, [it] goes to our opening and processing board or the ballot is extracted from the envelope, and then examined for damage marks stray marks identification marks, food, water, drinks, anything that could potentially cause the ballot, not to be able to be scanned.”

If there is an incorrect signature, any damage, or if the ballot was opened, the county has a protocol to ensure the integrity of the ballot.

“We will pull the ballot, or the ballot's envelope, put it aside, and contact the voter to ensure that that voter did intend to say unseal and reseal his own envelope,” said Nolan.

The county has received just under 50,000 ballots so far according to Nolan. We asked if they expected more or fewer ballots than in 2020.

“It depends on how engaged the voters are. I kind of feel like we're not going to see quite as many because it's not presidential, but I feel like voters are really motivated to have their voice heard in their hometown, where one vote could make the difference between the yes or the no outcome.”

While the ballots are processed, the county adheres to a strict chain of custody protocol where the ballots are always handled by no less than two staff members, and those staff members were sworn in with an oath of office.

The county ensures that ballots are handled in batches of 200 so they count in exact amounts. If the number of ballots is anything different, they start the process all over.