And so it begins.
Though the primary election in California is not until March, all the wheels are now in motion for when the time comes.
“I’m feeling very comfortable,” said Courtney Progner Morrow, chief deputy county clerk.
Morrow is in charge of elections for the county and since the state has moved the primary up to March from June, everything now has to be done earlier than in the past few years.
In fact, local candidates can now obtain their official paperwork to file for office. Called “signatures in lieu,” the paperwork allows local candidates to gather 20 signatures of registered voters to avoid a filing fee.
As of Monday, two candidates had pulled their paperwork.
District 4 supervisor candidate Susan Taber and District 2 supervisor candidate Tom Sweeney have both pulled petitions, said Morrow.
This year, three supervisor districts are up for grabs in Mariposa County. Those are in District 2, District 4 and District 5.
District 2 is currently held by Merlin Jones, though he has not officially announced if he is running. It is doubtful as Jones introduced Sweeney at a recent board of supervisors meeting. He also nominated Sweeney to be on the Mariposa County Planning Commission, a post he was placed in following a vote of the supervisors.
Taber is challenging incumbent Kevin Cann in District 4. Cann has announced he is going to run for reelection. In District 5, Supervisor Miles Menetrey has also announced his intention to seek reelection. To date, nobody has signaled if they are going to challenge Menetrey.
This year’s primary will be all by mail ballot, a first for the county. It is now allowed as state law changed and counties can conduct elections via mail-in ballot.
Traditionally, the majority of voters in Mariposa County have chosen that route, so Morrow thinks the change will be overall a positive move.
“It’s all setting up well,” said Morrow.
Though various rules are still being put in place, one thing Morrow has learned since attending a recent regional conference on the upcoming primary election is where to locate “vote centers” in the county. Those must be opened for 10 days prior to and including election day.
The vote centers are required by state law in counties who are doing all mail-in ballot elections. Those centers will still give voters a chance to go to the polls instead of using the mail-in system.
Originally, the county had planned to have the main vote center at the clerk’s office in Mariposa and that has not changed.
The county had also sought to do voting centers for shorter periods at various locations.
But the state has established rules that dictate two voting centers have to be opened for at least 10 days prior to the election.
Morrow and Mariposa County Clerk Keith Williams said it would not be feasible to locate a vote center in northern Mariposa County that would be open for 10 days simply because of the number of registered voters.
The large majority of registered voters are in and around Mariposa, including Bootjack, Woodland, Ponderosa Basin and Lushmeadows.
Because of that, Morrow said officials are looking at locating the second 10- day voting center either in Woodland or at the firehouse in Bootjack.
Both that center and the one at the clerk’s office have to be open 10 consecutive days, including weekends. They will be open regular business hours, except election day on March 3 when the centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., the same as voting hours.
Morrow did stress they will be putting voting centers in Coulterville and El Portal. She said it is likely those will be open two days, one of which will be election day. Those locations are yet to be determined.
Williams said he was frustrated by the state rules, noting they are designed for counties with “under 50,000” registered voters. The entire population of Mariposa County is around 18,000.
Williams said it is a typical rule from the state, which many times does not take into consideration the sparsely populated rural counties when making determinations.
No matter, the county still has to move forward and Morrow said the new system should make the election run smoothly.
The system means all registered voters in Mariposa County will receive a mail-in ballot. Those ballots will go out around Feb. 3, 2020, said Morrow.
“Everybody gets one,” said Morrow.
Voters simply have to fill out the ballots and mail them back in to the county. There is no cost for postage for the voters. They can also bring the ballots to the clerk’s office.
For people who don’t receive ballots or who register once ballots are mailed, the new system allows a “print on demand” ballot for voters. That includes those who choose to use the voting centers, she said.
“That is going to be where we save a lot,” said Morrow.
In the past, ballots had to be printed and Morrow said a lot of them eventually ended up in the recycling bin. Now, they can simply be printed on demand and then filled out by the voters.
The youth vote
One issue which has been discussed nationwide is the turnout in the election of young people. With the election also being a presidential primary, it is likely the youth vote will be substantial.
Morrow said youth are encouraged to register and can do so even if they are not 18. Some youth will turn 18 before the primary while many more will turn 18 before the general election in November 2020.
Youth can register now, said Morrow, and their registrations will be put into the system. Once they turn 18, they are officially registered to vote and will be sent a ballot. Youth as young as 16 can register to have their names in the system, she said, and they will be activated once they are 18.
“We encourage everyone to register,” said Morrow, referring to youth and all other eligible voters in the county.
There are various ways to register, including online at www.registertovote.ca.gov.
People can also go to the clerk’s office to register and there are various groups and organizations who assist youth to get registered.
Morrow said election officials have been focusing on getting as much information out as possible and part of that is on the county’s website. Visit mariposacounty.org/elections to find various information about voting in Mariposa County.
Anyone who has questions about the election, the new system or other issues can contact Morrow at (209) 966-2007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.