What is the Voters Choice Act?

The Voters Choice Act is a new law passed by the California State Legislature in 2016. The VCA was implemented successfully in the Counties of Butte, Nevada, El Dorado, Amador, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and Orange.  

What’s changing?​

Starting with the June 7, 2022, Statewide Direct Primary Election 

  1. Every registered voter will be mailed a Vote-by-Mail ballot starting 29 days before Election Day
  2. The ballot you receive in the mail can be returned by mail, in-person at a voting location or at an official ballot drop box
  3. In-person voting is still available. Voters can vote at any of the Vote Centers in Santa Cruz County
    1. 2 Voting Locations will be open for 29 days, including Election Day
    2. 5 Vote Centers will be open 11 days, including Election Day
    3. 13 Additional Vote Centers will be open for 4 days, including Election Day
  4. 17 Drop Boxes will be available for 29 days, including Election Day

Compared to the traditional polling place model, there are more locations to get a replacement ballot (on-demand), more accessible voting machines, and more language assistance at Vote Centers.

What is a Vote Center?

Vote Centers replace traditional polling places. Any Santa Cruz County voter may vote at any Vote Center within Santa Cruz County. Some Vote Centers will be open for 11 days and all Vote Center locations will be open 4 days, including Election Day.

Vote Centers offer a full-service voting experience:

  • Vote using an accessible ballot marking device.
  • Receive voting assistance.
  • Register to vote or update your registration and vote on the same day.
  • Request a replacement ballot.

Election Administration Plan:

The Election Administration Plan (EAP) is the roadmap that Santa Cruz County Clerk/Elections will use to conduct elections under the Voters Choice Act.   The EAP details how you:

  • will receive a ballot in the mail
  • can return the ballot that was mailed to you
  • can vote in-person
  • can vote using an accessible ballot marking device
  • can obtain language services
  • and more!

Consultation Meetings were held on Monday, April 18, 2022 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm and Tuesday, April 19, 2022 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. Input from these meetings were used to develop the Draft EAP.

A Draft Election Administration Plan (Draft EAP) was posted on April 22, 2022, for public comment. Please click here to view it.   The Draft EAP lists the proposed in-person voting locations, the dates and times each of them are open, and the ballot drop off locations.

Public comment was accepted through May 5, 2022, and using those comments an Amended Draft EAP was posted on May 10, 2022. Please click here to view it.

Following the public comments accepted through May 24, 2022, the EAP was updated and adopted by the County and submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Please click here to view the adopted EAP that is awaiting approval. 

Election Administration Plan Public Continued Input:

The County Clerk/Elections Department realizes and acknowledges that there was a condensed time frame between when the Board of Supervisors approved the transition to VCA and when this EAP was drafted, adopted and approved by the Secretary of State which did not offer ample opportunity for robust public input, education and outreach on the transition, and we are committed to continuing the public process for Santa Cruz County citizens to help craft and plan how future elections are conducted under the VCA model. Your comments, in addition to staff recommendations, will craft a supplemental EAP. Public display of the supplemental EAP will be the last two weeks of July and at least two public hearings will be held in August. 

Following certification of the June 7, 2022 election, the County Clerk/Elections office will review the approved EAP and create a supplemental document that will be used in conjunction with the EAP.  This document will address lessons learned in the first election under the vote center model, input received from you the voters, and observations. This supplemental document will help to shape the administration of the November 8, 2022 election and be used in the future when redrafting/adopting a new EAP. The methods of public comment used in April are still active and available to gather input from the public.

We had hoped that public display of the supplemental document would be the last two weeks of July with public hearings will be held in August; however, due to unforseen circumstances, that has been delayed.  We are working to get that document completed and available for viewing and input.

We continue to seek public input on the Adopted EAP from:

  • interested residents
  • representatives from the disability community
  • representatives from the language community
  • community organizations providing services to individuals with disabilities and language needs

Election Administration Plan Public Input:

You can comment on the Adopted EAP between now and the public hearings in August:

  • By email at publiccomments@votescount.us
  • By phone 831-454-2408
  • By submitting the Public Comment Form
  • In person at the County Clerk/Elections Department, 701 Ocean St Room 310, Santa Cruz
  • By mail to County Clerk/Elections Department, 701 Ocean St Room 310, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
  • At the Public Hearings (details coming soon)

 

Public Workshops to see how a Vote Center operates

Two public workshops are scheduled on May 26 and 27, where members of the public can experience a Vote Center in a practice environment.  Staff from the County Clerk/Elections office will be there to take you through the process from curbside voting with the exterior drop box, through check-in, using a paper ballot or accessible marking device that creates a paper ballot, exploring Spanish language options, voter assistance, and finally casting your ballot.  

The workshops are at:

  • Thursday, May 26, 4pm-6pm at Felton Library, 6121 Gushee St
  • Friday, May 27, 9am-11am at Watsonville Civic Plaza Community Room, 275 Main St., 4th Flr