Creek Fire complicates voting for displaced residents, but counties have some solutions

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Creek Fire could complicate the presidential election for thousands of people who have lost their homes or were forced to evacuate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already drastically changed Election Day.

"It's going to take more time," said Fresno County's elections clerk, Brandi Orth. "It's going to look different. And it's not going to have as many people inside as it did before."

Election officials in the Central Valley are now dealing with the second election-altering emergency.

The Creek Fire drove thousands of people out of their homes.

In a year when vote by mail ballots might be the best option to cast a vote, a lot of those people don't have a mailbox any more or can't go back to it.

A Madera County post office is collecting their mail, but two local election clerks are trying to make it easier for fire victims.

Madera County will be sending out a mobile vote center starting October 7, targeting "our areas that were hit with fire," said Madera County's elections clerk, Rebecca Martinez. "So we're going to try to focus there and make accommodations for our displaced voters."

If voters can't use the mobile vote center, they can call the elections office to give a new, temporary address.

"If you provide us with a mailing address because you don't have a mailbox any longer, or you're not home, we will temporarily change your address and get your ballot to you," Martinez said.

Both Madera and Fresno Counties are allowing fire victims to get ballots through email, a process usually limited to people with disabilities.

Despite the increased access and some confusion, they say signature checks should prevent any fraudulent ballots from getting through.

"The safeguard in that system is that the bad person would not know how to sign the real voter's signature," Orth said. "So in that process, the ballot would never be counted."

You can track your ballot to know it got counted or detect any problems by using "Where's My Ballot?"

And you can get more information on the county websites -- for Fresno County and Madera County election offices.
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