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2020 Election: Who is Voting and Why?

In this episode, Professor of Political Science Jennifer Merolla and political science graduate students Mai Nguyen Do and Sarah Hayes talk with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about why the female, Black, and youth vote are so important. 

 
FEATURING Jennifer Merolla, Mai Nguyen Do, and Sarah Hayes
OCTOBER 30, 2020
27 MINUTES AND 22 SECONDS

In this episode, Professor of Political Science Jennifer Merolla and political science graduate students Mai Nguyen Do and Sarah Hayes talk with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about why the female, Black, and youth vote are so important.

About Jennifer Merolla: Jennifer L. Merolla is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. Her research focuses on how the political environment shapes individual attitudes and behavior across many domains such as candidate evaluations during elections, immigration policy attitudes, foreign policy attitudes, and support for democratic values and institutions.

Learn more about Jennifer Merolla via https://politicalscience.ucr.edu/people/faculty/jennifer-merolla/

About Mai Nguyen Do: My name is Mai Nguyen Do. I work as a researcher for AAPI Data and am a PhD student in the political science department. I'm particularly interested in migration, Southeast Asian refugees in the United States, and Asian American politics more generally.

Learn more about Mai Nguyen Do via https://socialinnovation.ucr.edu/mai-nguyen-do

About Sarah Hayes: Sarah Hayes is a second year graduate student in the political science department. Her focus is American Politics with a focus in Black and Electoral politics. Sarah spends her time as a research associate for Center of Social Innovation working on projects to advance racial equity in the IE.

 

Podcast Highlights:

“...and so for women who really care about these issues, it's really important to become involved, to vote, to show up, to engage in your communities to try to address some of those areas where women still have a great deal of progress to make.”

-       Jennifer Merolla on the topic of the female vote.

“Young voters and young people are energized right now, the trouble is translating that energy into casting their ballot.”

-       Mai Nguyen Do on the topic of Gen Z and Millennials voting.

“What we have seen is a lot of ramped up attention surrounding Black politics, but also Black voting as well.”

-       Sarah Hayes on the topic of recent political events emphasizing Black voices and needs.

Guest:

Jennifer Merolla, Mai Nguyen Do, and Sarah Hayes

Interviewers:

Maddie Bunting (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Chief Ambassador)

Andrea Rayas (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Ambassador)

Music by:

C Codaine

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/Minimal_1625

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/Phase

This is a production of the UCR School of Public Policy: https://spp.ucr.edu/

Subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Learn more about the series and other episodes via https://spp.ucr.edu/podcast.

Commercial Links:

https://ucr.zoom.us/webinar/register/8916037471695/WN_Pna4aJkzTkqYxtqA7P3LTg

http://mpp.ucr.edu

Transcription

  • 2020 Election: Who is Voting and Why?

    Introduction: Welcome to Policy Chats, the official podcast of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. I’m your host, Maddie Bunting. Join me and my classmates as we learn about potential policy solutions for today’s biggest societal challenges. 

     

    Joining us today are Professor of Political Science, Jennifer Merolla, and Political Science graduate students, Mai Nguyen Do and Sarah Hayes. My fellow classmate, Andrea Rayas, and I chatted with them about why everyone who is eligible, no matter their age, gender, or ethnicity, should vote in this upcoming election. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Dr. Merolla, you are a professor of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside and specialize in the study of political behavior. In recent years, Americans seem to lack trust in the media and the information specifically they're getting about the government or politics. Do you believe this will impact some Americans' decision to vote in this upcoming election?

     

    Dr. Jennifer Merolla: That's a great question and I do want to talk a little bit about that trend. So, we have been seeing this declining trend of trust in the media over time. But one important thing to note is that it has been somewhat uneven across the partisan divide. So, Democrats have actually kind of maintained their level of trust of the media, but Republican trust of the media has declined over time, and it certainly predates Donald Trump being in office. And what we've seen since Trump has been in office, that actually Democrats have become more trusting of the media. So, now we have this kind of polarization in trust in the media between the two parties. Now, of course, Republicans are trusting of some media outlets. So for example, Fox News is an outlet that Republicans are more likely to trust. So to get to your question about what are the implications for whether people will participate in elections? I think because we see this polarization, there will not be necessarily a strong relationship between trust in the media and engagement. Because even though Republicans may not trust the media generally, they do trust say Fox News, so instead then they'll still be more inclined to participate. You know, prior to this period of polarization, it usually was the case that kind of people who had lower trust in the media, lower trust in political institutions, would be less likely to participate. But today, because the issue itself is actually quite polarized, it may not have as much of an impact on participation trends. At least the trends that we're seeing so far with early voting and we're really seeing record numbers of people even engaging in early voting, this election cycle. So, I suspect engagement will be quite high this cycle in comparison even to the last presidential election. 

    Andrea Rayas: So, this year we're celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, where it gave women the right to vote. Can you speak to why it is more important than ever for women to exercise their right to vote? 

     

    Dr. Jennifer Merolla: That's an excellent question, and thanks for bringing that up. I can also make a plug maybe for the class I'll be teaching, I think in spring quarter, on women in the American political process. And in that class we talk about some things about the status of women in American politics and society more generally. And so, even though women have certainly made a great deal of progress in the US political system, we still are unequally paid and unequal pay is even greater for women of color. There was a really interesting study done on the status of women actually by the Center for Social Innovation that kind of outlines some of those trends. We also know, and this is especially the case in the current climate that women face a heavier care burden, right? Both with respect to children, watching elders, and this has been of course exacerbated during the pandemic. Women are, of course, under represented still. We've made great gains, especially in 2018, but we still remain under-represented in most political institutions. Women are also more likely to be victims of sexual harassment and assault, and so even though there's been a lot of progress, there's still much more work to be done. And so women who really care about these issues, it's really important to become involved, to vote, to show up, to engage in their communities, to try to address some of those areas where women still have, you know, a great deal of progress to make. You know, the really interesting thing is when women make up a greater percentage of bodies, the culture, right, of those institutions changes and in ways that really help the advancement of not just women, but certainly other communities that are underrepresented in the academy and in government. And so, it is really important for people to get involved. And I know this well, this podcast will be aired much later, but there's this wonderful conference happening at UCR, Persist: The Women’s Political Engagement Conference that really does aim to try to get women, both young women, but also women in the broader community, more engaged in politics in figuring out ways to do that and to find mentors to help them along through that process. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: I know both campaigns have been, targeting may not be the correct word, but aiming for these suburban mother, worker, housewife, female population. I know there have been ads targeted towards them, even in debates it's brought up a lot. Can you speak to what that means? And I think that alone proves their vote is important if both campaigns are actively trying to earn that vote.

     

    Dr. Jennifer Merolla: Yes, and women, you know, when we look at some media coverage,  we know that there's often this gender gap where women are more supportive of the Democratic Party compared to the Republican Party. But suburban women tend to be a little more on the fence. And part of that is that many suburban women, of course not all, tend to be white women and white women on average, have actually voted for Republicans more than Democrats over most of modern US history. And so they tend to be swing voters though, so you know these are soccer moms in some elections, right? They'll be referred to suburban women, soccer moms after 9/11 they were security moms, and so they're often, in some respects, the bellwether of how the election is going to go. Because, you know, they're paying attention to the current moment. Maybe not as directly connected, some certainly are to political parties, but they maybe kind of could go either way in a given election context. And so they are often, you know, a group that is targeted and this has been happening for many election cycles; Even if the labels attached are different in any given cycle, it's kinda that same demographic that tends to be women living these suburban areas, who predominantly tend to be white women, who may sometimes vote Republican, but then sometimes vote Democratic. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Thank you so much for joining us. We greatly appreciate it. And I hope every woman out there who is eligible does exercise their right to vote because it's an election season, not day, so they do have until November 3rd.

     

    Dr. Jennifer Merolla: Exactly and thanks to you both. This has been a wonderful conversation.

     

    Commercial, Maddie Bunting: Experts in public health, racial equity, and immigration talk about the 2020 election and its implications on November 13th at 02:00 PM. Learn more about this special post-election event hosted by the UCR School of Public Policy at spp.ucr.edu. You can also find the RSVP link in our show notes. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Mai, you are currently a PhD student in Political Science at the University of California, Riverside and you work as a researcher for AAPI Data in the Center for Social Innovation. You previously also worked at Courage California, a grassroots advocacy organization based in California. You have experience in campaign communication as well as field organizing. Due to COVID-19, many traditional campaign strategies are not possible this year. Therefore, candidates are relying on virtual platforms rather than the typical massive in-person rallies, town halls, et cetera. It's all looking different. Do you think communicating this way in campaigns is just as effective? 

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: So it's been really hard, right? And I don't know if we can 100-percent replicate what we know to be as effective, right? In terms of, you know, in-person going door to door, doing rallies and whatnot. However, just because we can't do some of this in-person stuff, doesn't mean that we can't also try and communicate with people, right? And so we've decreased or in most cases just completely thrown out things like going door to door. But then in the place of that, we've drastically increased things like text banking, phone banking, right? Things like doing lit drops. So dropping pieces of campaign literature at people's doors, not knocking on indoors. And so there are these other things that we normally do, that instead of just sort of taking them as maybe 30%, 40% of what we're doing, now it’s taking up the majority of what we're doing. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Amazing. And for those who may not know, could you maybe go into more detail of what phone banking is, what text banking is, and why it's beneficial and why they're choosing to go that route? 

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: Yeah! So basically, phone banking is volunteers, or sometimes paid, callers who are calling voters and text banking is the same thing just with texting. So if you've gotten a text on your phone about the election or a phone call asking, “Will you support Candidate X?”, that's a volunteer either doing phone banking or text banking. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Is there research done that this is effective? Do many people pick up their phone, you know, when they get that unknown number that they don't recognize. Is there a lot of interaction? Or would you say it's just good to directly reach out to the voters, even if they don't necessarily respond or pick up their phone.

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: So out of all the options that we have, right, so not in addition to phone, banking and tax thinking, thinking about yard signs or rallies and what not, out of all of the array of tools, text banking and phone banking and canvassing (knocking on doors), is the most effective way to reach voters. So even though the response rate, in terms of people picking up their phone or applying to a text message, is a little low out of all the options that we have right now, they are the ones that we know to be the most effective. Direct voter contact is the most effective way to get people to vote. So even though the yard signs are fine and the rallies are fun and the waving signs on the sidewalk is great; In terms of the time that you invest into them and the money that you invest in them, the text banking and phone banking are the most cost effective and time effective.

     

    Andrea Rayas: So due to the campaign reliance on social media, do you believe that we will see a higher percentage of young voters participate in this year’s election? 

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: I think a lot of people are anticipating higher voter turnout among young people. However, what we see from the early recurrence is that not as much as we might have thought. But that's specifically for a vote-by-mail, right? And we know that younger people tend to go to the polls, right? Go to the vote centers or the polling location closer to election day. And so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the totals come into. But right now, California’s ballots are starting to come in. And if anyone who goes on the PDI ballot tracker and look at those returns and right now, the 18 - 35 [age] category is still below everyone else in terms of share of the amount of that group that are turning in their ballots early. 

     

    Andrea Rayas: Thinking of the times right now, we've seen lots of violence yet resilience. Do you think these are some aspects or factors that young voters will take into account to push them to vote? 

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: Yeah. I think young voters are, or at least some people are energized right now. Now, the trouble is translating that energy into casting their ballot. And so I know all those campaign ads that are going out. Some of these are amazing, right? These really powerful ads that are trying to get young people to vote. And hopefully, they do show up when it comes to election day. Because even though, you know, in California everyone's been issued a vote-by-mail ballot, but we still see less than 30% total returned, and with less than two weeks ago. So hopefully people show up and particularly young people, right, who may have school right, or working, and they just haven't had a chance. Maybe they'd even filled it out, but haven't had a chance to just take it out to the mailbox yet. And so hopefully they do. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: With your background and experience in field organizing and campaign communications, I'll love to touch on social media a little bit more. There's Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, on YouTube I'm seeing ads. I mean, I feel like it's everywhere. And I think that's great! And I think, again, it's just a constant reminder, especially to the younger generation, which is who tend to be on social media often. So, what's your experience with social media and using that as a form of communication with campaigns?

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: Yeah, that's a great question. I think there's a couple of issues I would point out. So social media is obviously great, it's very powerful, right? You can also do things like micro targeting. So it targets very specific groups of people and very specific people. However, it also means that you have to have people who know what they're doing. So you have a candidate that has a great platform, right, that has an otherwise strong campaign. But they're investing extra money into digital and whoever's doing that investment and spending that money doesn't know what they're doing, then that money is going out the window. It means that they're not actually reaching their voters. For example, I'm from Santa Clarita. And sometimes people in one side of the city who are in one water district will get ads for a candidate that is actually running in a district that's just a couple streets away. And so things like that are really just examples of where people need to be careful when we talk about social media and using social media; You'd have to be able to have people who know what they're doing with social media to get people not just out to vote, but also the information that they need to vote, right? Whether it's candidate ads or guides to propositions or what not. If the correct information is not getting to the correct people, that doesn't really help in terms of getting out the vote. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Yes, it's a great responsibility. How you go about communicating with your constituents. Because you want them to get your information if you're a candidate or if you're backing one side of a preposition. But I think in this day and age, using technology to our benefit to try and, you know, there's a cons to it as well, but I think just trying to get as much information to the people as possible is really, really wonderful.

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: And one of the things I'll point to on those ads in California specifically, you'll see that the bottom third of the screen has the disclosure of who pays for those ads. And that's very recent. I was very lucky to intern for the California Clean Money Campaign, where we were working to get that passed. And it's not like that in other states. The disclosures are not as strong or not even there as much in some other states. So we're very lucky to have laws like that. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Well, my goodness, I did not know that. Thank you. And yeah, I think it's very important to say, “This Ad was paid by...” and maybe part of your research is looking up that group or that individual who is paying for that ad. I think it's also important to realize where you live dictates what you see and what they put out. You know, if your region is known to be red or blue, you might be seeing one side of the aisle or very little, but maybe if you're in a purple area or a swing state, they are purposely putting money into you and your area to inform you and persuade you. I think it's very interesting how it all goes down. I think it's very impressive your background in campaigning and organizing, and it's so important. So I just want to thank you for all the work you've done around elections and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. It's been very, very interesting and engaging and I want to encourage all of our listeners, but essentially those in the college age range from 18 - 27 to get out there and vote, that your vote counts. So Mai, I want to thank you so, so much for joining us, I greatly appreciate it. 

     

    Mai Nguyen Do: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me. 

     

    Commercial: Social injustice, health disparities, climate change. Are you interested in solving pressing challenges like these currently facing our region in the world? Then consider joining the next cohort of future policy leaders like me, by applying for the UCR Master of Public Policy program. Learn more at mpp.ucr.edu. You can also find the link in our show notes. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: So Sarah, you're currently a second year graduate student in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Riverside, with a focus in black and electoral American politics. You previously worked as an electoral organizer for the California Democratic Party and participated in many political activities such as organizing neighborhoods, holding town halls, and policy advising. Very impressive. Can you speak to the importance of the black vote in this election? 

     

    Sarah Hayes: Thank you so much for the introduction, I really appreciate it. Yeah, I can absolutely speak to it. I had a really fantastic time being Chair of the California Young Black Democrat. But now headed by Devin Murphy, who is a really, really phenomenal person. So, yeah, speaking to the black vote in this election and talking about the importance of the black vote. What we know is that the black vote is just as important as it is in any other election. But what we have seen though, is a lot of ramped up attention surrounding black politics, but also black voting as well. And this is a good thing. I mean, black voters have traditionally maintained a strong preference for the Democratic Party and they remain one of their highest groups to turn out. And what we've seen actually in this election, Pew Research has pointed out that one in three black voters actually live in battleground states. When we talk about this election in particular, and we think about voting suppression efforts, I think that that has grabbed a lot of attention in the news media. This is important because while strides have been made to tackle voter suppression, they are still active in this election. From more explicit measures like voter ID laws, to more implicit things that are happening, such as excessively long lines. When it comes to voting, we have seen that voter suppression has really been rooted in suppressing block votes. And that's for a particular reason, because when black people do come out to vote, they essentially do end up voting with the Democratic party. But I think just going back again to this election, black voting and I think what has been highlighted in the time that we are in now, is that black mobilization and efforts of organizing, while they have been here for decades, they have absolutely played a crucial and central role in dominating what I think is a taking a critical look at our criminal justice system. So black voters have really been putting in sustained efforts to keep that conversation going. But also too, has played a crucial role in shifting public attitudes when it comes to a lot of these conversations. The fact that we have so much high visibility for a movement of Black Lives. But also to bear specific policy objectives is something that is very, very particular to 2020 that has really broadened out to what has made the black vote such a crucial element for this election. 

     

    Andrea Rayas: The Black Lives Matter movement calls for criminal justice reform, as you have mentioned, health education, and economic disparities exacerbated due to COVID-19, and all other pressing issues society is currently facing. What can politicians put on their agenda that would aid the black community, in your opinion? 

     

    Sarah Hayes: Yeah, definitely. And that's a really great question. And I think it's important to place this into context when we talk about certain things that need to be on the agenda or in certain policy initiatives we've seen highlighted out in the public. What we're starting to see is this crucial but central call for reform in our criminal justice systems, as you’ve mentioned our health systems, education systems, and also addressing economic equity. But I think that this all kind of gets at pointing to racism and, by and large, gender and class, that has systematically created the disparities that we see in these institutions. While Black Lives Matter has definitely acknowledged racism that happens at the individual level, that happens in between people, I think, by and large, what we'd seen in this round is a much more attention to institutions and systems,and how systematic racism really, really bleeds throughout a lot of these outcomes that we measure. And so, while I don't think that I can't speak to all black voters because it's important to recognize that black voters in black loading agenda is not a monolith. And there are a lot of diverse and complex issues within black voting. I think at its core, there has been this unified call that, if we are going to be addressing systematic failure, our policies need to match that as well in systematic policy solutions. And also to ensuring that policymakers, that elected officials are tuned into the black voters that they actually do represent, making sure that they are being accountable to them about their efforts and the work doesn't just stop after the election, that they are continued and sustained and really go beyond just party politics. And I only say this because they think it is important because there is a narrative that the movement for Black Lives Matter was very organic and that naturally kind of arose from this situation. But I think it's also important to tell the other side of this story is that the movement for Black Lives is a movement that has been organizing for years on end, since 2012, 2013. And that is just the present for the movement for Black Lives. There's other social movements that came before that. But yeah, I think it's important to get at that. This work is, it's critical, but it's also strategic as well. Protest politics has always been the center of pushing the narrative for a lot of these policy solutions to even make it to more of a conventional or normative way of us looking at certain things like Defund the Police or Universal Basic Income. It really comes from protesters and mobilizers really opening up that space and really imagining a lot of these things becoming a living, breathing policy action. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Sarah, thank you so, so much for joining us. We had an absolute pleasure speaking with you and just thank you for taking the time. 

     

    Sarah Hayes: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you all having me for this session, it was great.

     

    Outro: Policy Chats is a production of the UC Riverside, School of Public Policy. Our theme music was composed by C Codaine. I’m Maddie Bunting, ‘til next time.




     

    2020 Election: Voting By Mail (with Bob Page)

     

    Introduction: Welcome to Policy Chats, the official podcast of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. I’m your host, Maddie Bunting. Join me and my classmates as we learn about potential policy solutions for today’s biggest societal challenges. 

    Joining us today is San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters, Bob Page. My fellow classmate, Alfredo Barcenas, and I chatted with him about the various ways to vote in this upcoming election.

     

    Maddie Bunting: Well, Mr. Page, thank you so, so much for joining us today. We are so excited to speak with you about voting and voting by mail in this upcoming election. You are the Registrar of Voters for San Bernardino County. Across this country, as we all prepare and begin to vote, every state has different rules and policies, and within California, every county has different rules and policies. Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order earlier this year stating that every registered voter in California will receive a vote by mail ballot for the upcoming election… It was possible to vote by mail in previous elections. So I'm just curious, why is voting by mail significant this year? It seems to be a large topic of conversation. 

     

    Bob Page: Well, first, I appreciate the question and I also appreciate the opportunity to talk today about this upcoming election. It’s very important for all of our voters in our region to understand what the potential changes are. and understand what receiving a mail ballot home means for them and what options are still available for them to cast a ballot. So the governor's executive order was just kind of the start of the process. That requirement from the state is actually now codified in the elections code. Assembly Bill 860 actually made that part of the law that we have to mail a ballot to all active registered voters. So the reason given in that legislation and as well as in the executive order, was it it was felt that at the time that we were discussing how to prepare for this election under the COVID pandemic, we still at the time had people at state which stay at home orders. The feeling was that what's going to be a way to provide a safe and secure way for everyone to have an opportunity to vote in this important election.

     

    Maddie Bunting: Wonderful, voting by mail is one option, but there are many options with voting. Can you speak to how the county will ensure the safety of poll workers, as well as those who choose to vote in person, as many people may choose that option. 

     

    Bob Page: Yes. We are required, in addition to mailing about to every voter, we are also required to provide in-person voting opportunities, which includes not just polling places, but also our office of early voting started on Monday this week, in our office. We also open up five additional early voting locations throughout our county in Ontario, Victor Ville, Apple Valley, Joshua Tree, and another location here in the city of San Bernardino. The week of October 26. There'll be open all five days that week, Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM. And so as well as then pulling places will be open for four days starting October 31st through November 3rd. And what we are doing is sure that our election workers, as well as voters are safe when they come into any of our locations, is that we have secured a large amount of personal protective equipment. So all of our election workers will be wearing face masks as well as plastic face shields over those. We're providing gloves, lots of hand sanitizer cleaning supplies. Our poll workers were election workers and had been trained that during the days of voting that they should clean the high touch surfaces throughout the day. And they're also being trained to implement social distancing guidance in our voting locations. One of the examples I'll give you is that we have printed probably a couple thousand floor stickers that say, you know, stands six feet apart and will be giving those selections workers to set up when people are standing in line to check in. We already have those set up in our hallway here at our office for early voting, but the same will be done at our other early voting sites and our polling locations. And finally, I'll say that if a voter comes into our voting location not wearing a face covering, we will purchase enough disposable face masks to offer those to the voters as well. If a voter still refuses to wear a face mask when they come in, we will offer it to everybody else who's in the room and all the other voters that are present, we will offer them a plastic face shield to wear to provide them with some extra protection because we can't mandate that a voter where a face covering while they're voting because the right to vote as a constitutional right, and that's not something that we can abridge. So we have to allow somebody to vote and we want to make sure we provide extra protection to those around them if somebody's not willing to wear a face mask. 

     

    Alfredo Barcenas: Great, thank you. And I think that's really important and I really appreciate you providing clarification on the importance of safety. And I think, you know, the importance of making sure everyone has the right to vote and providing, you know, any type of face covering for someone to be able to feel comfortable to vote. I want to ask a question and turn a little bit to the California voters Choice Act that knows a law that was passed in 2016 aimed at modernizing elections by allowing voters to choose how, when, and where to cast your ballot. So San Bernardino County doesn't follow that model, but I understand that you have evaluated it. How does your current model differ? 

     

    Bob Page: Well, what I would say is that for this election there'll be very little differences between how we operate our polling places and how counties that have adopted the voter's choice act operate their voting centers. And the reason I say that is that the only main difference between us and voter’s act county is that we assign voters within precincts to go to a specific polling place. And with a selection, as I mentioned, our polling places will be open for four days, which is more aligned with what above center would be and voter's choice that counties for this election actually had been allowed not to have to have their vote centers open for ten days before and only have to have them open the same days are polling places are open. The main difference really for this election is that we assign voters to appoint places. But the last point I'll make is that if somebody goes to a public place other than the one they've been assigned to, we can still assist them without them having to vote provisionally. We ahead of the March primary election, we purchased and implemented electronic rosters in our polling places, electronic poll pads, which has our entire roster of voters in our county on each polling place. So if somebody goes to the wrong polling place, we can still look them up, determine which ballot type they are, they're eligible to vote on. And if we don't have a printed version of that ballot in our polling place, we have at least three accessible ballot marking devices that they can use that has every single ballot type in our county available on it. So we still provide many of the services that they do at both centers. We provide if somebody misses the registration deadline of Monday, October 19th and shows up at our polling place and wants to vote, but isn't registered, we can do conditional voter registration or appointment place and give them a provisional ballot. We can do all the, all the same kind of things they do at a vote center. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Interesting, and that actually sparks a question with me. You know, we all know states within the United States handle elections differently, including registration deadlines and various other factors of voting. Do you see other states following California in the California Voters Choice Act maybe extending same-day registration? Do you think we will continue to stay unique in those or do you think it will become more of a national precedent? 

     

    Bob Page: Well I would say that in this election we are seeing a number of states expanding the ability of their voters to vote by mail, which is the initial tenant of the Voter’s Choice Act is that all voters receive a vote by mail ballot. And then they have their option of either mailing it back or coming to a vote center to vote. So obviously with this election and with a pandemic, that's something that you're seeing that shift. It is typical in elections that when temporary changes are made like this for an election and they become popular, they can end up becoming the law and the procedure going forward. So I think time will tell it to see how this election goes, how many states continue that expansion of vote-by-mail and, going that direction. But I can't predict, but we'll see, we'll see what happens.

     

    Maddie Bunting: Thank you. And so again, going back to within the state, voting is under county jurisdictions. So you represent San Bernardino County. How are you collaborating with neighboring registered voters or the California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, to ensure accurate and efficient election results? 

     

    Bob Page: Yeah, so the secretary of state has convened working groups or Task Forces going back to late March when we started first discussing how to conduct this election and what improvements we could make to ensure that voters could vote safely and securely. So those efforts have continued. They include not just counties and sanctuary states' offices, but they also include voter advocacy groups, representatives of special districts, cities. There have been some officials who worked for state legislators and those calls, so those have continued. We have weekly calls every Friday morning to talk about the latest issues and whatever's coming up that next week that's important for us to kinda hash through or, or talk about examples of things we're finding so that collaboration is ongoing. It's something that's obviously very important as we all try to work together to ensure that we identify the common messages, even though we might have some differences here and there in terms of how we conduct our elections that we still are, are focusing on the, on the bigger issues that we can make sure voters are informed of and have the information they need to be able to exercise their right to vote. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Would you say that this election, the push to about has been greater than in past years, have you, from this state to the county level, has there been more marketing or more work into spreading the word just given COVID 19 and people perhaps feel uncomfortable with voting by mail or are voting in person. Have you seen a greater push this election? 

     

    Bob Page: I would say yes, but part of that is because the state law that was enacted for this election requires it. So we have expanded our voter education and community outreach efforts and we have been improving that communication. We have been making community presentations for the past six weeks or so. I've made about 30 presentations to various community groups and have another 30 or so that are planned between now and October 24th. We are not typically in our office, haven't had the budget for radio ads or that kind of thing, but the state did allocate some money in the budget for us to do an expanded voter education campaign. So we are adding, you know, paid advertisements and other, you know, developing videos and other things that we haven't had the resources to do in the past. So that's been a nice change to be able to better educate the voters about how they can exercise their right to vote. 

     

    Alfredo Barcenas: So, many people this year are going to be casting their ballot for the first time. And I'm sure Maddie, you remember when you voted for the first time and I still remember when I voted for the first time. This year, my sister is going to be one of those people who votes for the first time. So how can the county guarantee and ensure that their balance is going to be safe, confidential, and be counted as part of the November third general election? 

     

    Bob Page: So first I will say that we here at the register voters office, I'm sure at every other voter registrar's office throughout the state. We take our jobs very seriously and, and our responsibility to ensure that all voters who have the right to vote can exercise that, that we provide plenty of access, giving them, making sure all their options are available to them. And that's something we'll continue to do. As we mentioned at the beginning of this, we are mailing a ballot to everybody so that if they do not wish to vote in person because of the pandemic, they have that option. They don't need to come and interact with us in our office to do so. But all the other options are still available for people who wish to vote in person. So just quickly, just kinda outline what we're doing to ensure people have options and, and can choose what they believe is the safest way is that we do prepay the postage on return envelopes. So if somebody wants to use the US Postal Service to return their ballot, they don't have to pay anything to do so. Second, as I mentioned, we have a number of locations where we open up our office, Early Vote sites and polling places where if they want to vote at home on that ballot, put it in the envelope, sign it date it, seal it they don't necessarily have to check in and at a polling place or any of our sites, they can just come in and drop it off at one of those locations. Very quick, easy process. Additionally, we have expanded because the state required that we do so for this election, the number of mail ballot drop boxes that we offer in the marks of March election in the primary, we had about 56 drop-off locations, all the county other county library branches, as well as all the City Clerk's offices were places that are voters could drop off their mail ballot. We've now expanded that to 70 locations and we've moved from having those ballot boxes on the countertops in those facilities to being outdoor installed secure mail ballot drop boxes that we've been installing the last few weeks and putting at various locations in the county. The reason we made that decision was at the time we had to make that choice. County offices were still close to the public, a lot of city offices were still closed to the public. All county library branches were closed to the public that month. And I not knowing at that time what would be we'd be dealing with with COVID right now, made the choice that it was safer approach to install boxes outside so that if public access was restricted or limited to any of the traditional locations we used, voters still had a place that they could drop off their ballot. So that's another option that's available to them. And finally, if somebody wants to vote in the person that's still available. And the other, as I said, we've got a number of safety measures in place to ensure that they can do that safely and securely. The last thing I will say though is that while it's very important for us to make every effort to ensure that every ballot that we receive is counted. There are some cases where a mailbox sent to us is challenged and not actually taken out of the envelope and counted. So I want to use this as an opportunity to talk to the voters and remind them of the importance of some of the instructions. So the first is, is that if you're going to return a mail ballot in the envelope, it must be either dropped off at one of the locations. I said such as our office or a dropbox by 8:00 PM on November 3rd. The other option is if you use a postal service, it must be postmarked by November 3rd. So if you're dropping it off in a mailbox, make sure you look at what the next pickup time is and if you're dropping off on the afternoon of the third, there may not be another pickup time that day and may not have been postmarked. That's one of the main, one of one of the two largest reasons why mail ballots in the past have not been counted as because the postmarked date is after election day. The other important thing in the major reason why ballots mailed out sometimes are not counted is for a signature issue, either the voter failed to sign the outside of the envelope when they returned it, or the signature they provided did not match, in our opinion, the signature we had on file for the voter. While that's important, we want voters to do that at the front end. I can assure them that there is a process for contacting them if we have an issue related to their signature. We are required to mail them and notice giving them until two days before we certify the election to correct that signature issue. The other thing that's new for this election that's being offered is where my ballot is Where's my ballot? Which is a tracking service offered by the Secretary of State. We signed up for that. So every vote, our accounting now can go to the Secretary State's website to that to that where's my ballot site? And sign up to receive notifications. They can get either an email notification, a text message notification, or a phone message at certain steps in the process. So we mailed all of our mail ballots out. I had signed up, so I got a text message Monday morning saying my bow had been male, that was on its way. Once I vote and return it to the registrar's office for processing, I'll get another notification that says that the register voters office has received my ballot. And at the point at the end, once hopefully my staff determines my ballot’s eligible to be counted, then I will get a notification that says that my ball is been counted and if there's an issue with it that the ballot gets challenged for any reason in addition to the letter that we sent out to voters, they will also get that notification from where's my ballot saying, Hey, your ballot been challenged, please contact your registrar voters office to rectify the situation. 

     

    Alfredo Barcenas: No, yeah, so I really, I think it's really informative to hear about the mechanisms that are put in place to insure people feel comfortable to mail in their ballot. So, and we hear a lot of concerns from the public wondering if their ballot is going to be counted. So can we, should the community be concerned on the safety or the aspect that it's gonna get counted in, that it's okay to mail in their ballot?

     

    Bob Page: I will tell you that while the Postal Service has advised counties and voters to make a plan and vote and drop their ballots back in the mail early like a week early. I will share with you that when we mailed out the ballots to everybody I made a presentation to the town council and Yucca Valley. And the mayor of one of the council members told me during the meeting they had already received their balance. So while the postal services told people it could take up to a week for male to go from point A to point B. The experience I've had is that it's much quicker. So, you know, they were working very well with the Postal Service and with the Secretary of State's office to ensure this goes smoothly. But I've not seen any problems yet in terms of the speed of the mail, but obviously, if somebody is concerned about that, we have other options for them. If they feel comfortable with the postal service, I would advise not to wait until November 3rd to actually put it in the mail. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: Yes, thank you. And I want to recommend to all of our listeners and those watching to check, research your county as well as your state if you aren't in California and find out what the government is doing for you. And this does vary depending on where you are. I have a quick question. This is, thank you for thoroughly explaining what the county and the state is doing to help voters calm some of those nerves. But there is, and has been for a long time now talk about voter intimidation and the various mechanisms that can take place. Can, are you worried about voter intimidation? Is that something that's on your radar?

     

    Bob Page: Why will I say that because our operations are transparent and can be observed in polling places and our office, part of our training for our election workers is always on how to provide good public service. How to de-escalate potential situations if somebody is upset about something. So that's a key part of our training of our staff and our temporary election workers that we have. So specifically for polling places, I can share a couple of things. One is that well, first let me talk about the dropboxes and we've had questions about the security of the dropboxes just to quickly state the drop boxes that are being installed outside. They're made of 18 gauge steel. They weigh about 200 pounds, so they're not something somebody could just easily pick up and walk away with without special equipment. But even if somebody wanted to do that, they are anchored and bolted to the concrete pads that are set on and those concrete anchor bolts can only be accessed if you have the two separate keys to be able to unlock the retrieval door, to access them there inside the box themselves, they are not outside. And we're working with other public agencies and schools and others to locate those and working with them to ensure they put them in a place where they can keep an eye on them. If they find that somebody has put graffiti or defaced those boxes in any way that they report that to us immediately. So we're taking that very seriously in terms of security, the ballots, putting the drop boxes. At our polling places, as I said, we do provide de-escalation skills training to our staff and provide them with training to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. In terms of some of the reports that there may be intimidation. We have been meeting now for a couple of months with the sheriff's department and discussing different things we can do that are kind of behind the scenes as not, as, not as apparent to voters because we can't, we can't put a security guard or a sheriff's deputy out in front of every polling place within the gun, that, that would be perceived as intimidation of voters and the wrong end of the spectrum of potential voter suppression. So we have to find a balance there about how we ensure that our polling places in our voting locations run smoothly, safely and securely. So, but what we've done is we've made sure that all the city police departments in our county, as well as the Sheriff's Department, have been given the locations of all of our polling places, all of our drop boxes, all of our early vote sites. They provided me with all of their non emergency numbers to have conversations with them while voting is going on so we can address issues, but we're also, in addition to having training of de-escalation skills to our poll workers. We also have trained them obviously, if there is a situation that developed at your polling place that creates an immediate danger, we do ask that you call 9-1-1 and by giving the law enforcement officials in our county our locations and having that working relationship with them for now a couple of months, that should result in a much quicker response time to deal with potential issues. So we are taking this seriously, but it is balanced to how we can appropriately provide a secure space for voting without having any kind of show of force that would intimidate others. 

     

    Maddie Bunting: That is great work. Yes, I think every voter and possible voter will be very glad to hear, you know, those measures are being taken. So we've discussed the various ways to boat, such as in-person at polling places through a dropbox or through the postal service. And as people are now receiving their ballots in the mail, as you just mentioned, is there one method you would recommend over another? 

     

    Bob Page: Actually, no. And the reason for that is that part of our important part of our voter education messaging in the first part of that is, this is the voter's ballot. You know, our message is, your ballot, vote safe vote early. So we just want to make sure that the voters are educated about all their different choices. Whether that's putting it in the mail, dropping into the dropbox, coming to one of our early vote sites, or our office, or a polling place to vote. You know, it's the voter's choice once we explain to them all the safety measures were taken, we've taken what we put into place. But it's ultimately their choice about what they feel is the best way to vote. So I don't wish to steer people towards one direction. I just want them to know that every option we're providing them, we believe is safe and secure. And really that choice lies with them in terms of what they feel most comfortable doing in this election we're charting they're voted ballot. 

     

    Alfredo Barcenas: And just to follow up on Maddie’s question, there's news of the USPS might be overwhelmed the next coming weeks with all of these ballots coming in. So would you recommend that people cast their ballots earlier? 

     

    Bob Page: We are encouraging people to vote early. As I said, our message is, you're ballot vote safe vote early. And the reason is that not necessarily because it's this election, but it's because historically the presidential general election has the highest voter turnout. And so there's a number of opportunities for voters to not have to wait until November 3rd to vote. And we'd like them as many of our voters as possible to take advantage of that. And so, you know, whichever method they choose, if they want to vote in person, you know, they can come to our office now if they want to vote, we had about, I want to say about 250 voters came in on Monday. I think another 100 or so will come in yesterday. Obviously we've got 1.1 million voters, so that's just a small number. But the more people that vote earlier, the earlier we can get processing those ballots and ensure that we can have everything done by December 1st, which is our legal deadline. So we do encourage people to vote early and if they want to vote in person and not not drive to San Bernardino, you know, as I said, we'll have those five additional locations that are opened the week of October 26th. And then we'll have 210 polling places that are open for four days. So if they want to vote on, on Halloween, on October 31st, the polling places will be open from ten to six. They'll be open those same hours on Sunday the first and Monday the second. And then on November third, all of our polling places will be open from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. So if people want to make it to the late day, they can, but they should be prepared for waiting in a line. Given the large turnout, we typically do have lines that are polling places and because of the health and safety measures we're taking at the polling places, it should take a little longer to vote because we've got to clean surfaces between voters and do those kinds of things. And have, will have less polling, you know, potentially in polling places we've used in past elections when we couldn't get a larger polling place just because of the availability of community spaces in that neighborhood. There will be less check-in stations and less voter booths so that we can put those six feet apart. So we are encouraging people to vote early because that is a potential if, if too many people wait until November 3rd, we will have lines in there. There'll be a long way to go. And we'd like to avoid that if we could.

     

    Maddie Bunting: Yes, of course. Well, I hope everyone, however they choose to submit their ballot, makes a plan and whether that’s voting by mail,  early, in-person. I think just doing your research, studying the propositions and the candidates and making a plan to physically turn in that ballot, however, you do so is of the utmost importance. Mr. Page. Thank you so much. You have shared such important and pertinent information and I know our listeners will appreciate it and I hope again that districts encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote. So thank you so much for joining us. We greatly appreciate it. 

     

    Bob Page: Well, thank you for this opportunity to provide some information to your listeners about this election.


    Outro: Policy Chats is a production of the UC Riverside, School of Public Policy. Our theme music was composed by C Codaine. I’m Maddie Bunting, ‘til next time.