Early voting started in Los Altos Hills over the weekend and anyone in Santa Clara County eligible to vote can head up to town hall at 26379 W. Fremont Road to acquire and cast a ballot. The rules have changed this year – county voters can vote early, change ballots, change registrations and even register for the first time.
Two new state laws, Senate Bill 207 and the Voter’s Choice Act, have expanded when and how local voters can take action. This is the first year when a qualified voter who has not registered can turn up at a voting center, register and vote – either early or on election day itself (March 3).
If you are registered as having “no party preference,” you will by default be given a ballot with no category for the presidential primary. You can request a ballot for the Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent Party primaries by going to a voting center and giving your name and address.
In Los Altos Hills a poll worker greeted entrants at the door this week, confirming county residency and registration status. You can now update political party preference, language preference, change contact information or update an address without having to re-register to vote. If you request a different ballot than you received in the mail, poll workers can print you a new ballot on demand as you wait – but you need to cast it there in person.
Several devices added electronics to the paper ballot experience. An arriving voter is looked up on a tablet, requests a ballot and digitally signs to verify identity. With a beep and the printout of a receipt, the voting process begins. Even if you ask for a paper ballot – filled out in the traditional manner, hunched in a flimsy kiosk wielding a sharpie pen – you then walk it to the “tabulator," a black electronic cube the size of a Bernese mountain dog. Voters hand-feed their paper ballot piece by piece into the device, an Image Cast Precinct from Dominion Voting, for instant electronic tallying – and receive a query if they have filled in an answer ambiguously. The paper copies are stored within the belly of the device. The experience ends, as always, with a sticker.
Early voting is already underway at Los Altos Hills Town Hall and begins Saturday at the Los Altos Youth Center and The Terraces at Los Altos. You can visit a voting center to vote in-person, drop off a ballot or get a replacement ballot. Once they open for business, the centers operate 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until election day, when hours extend to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and other precincts open as well. For more information, visit sccgov.org/sites/rov.