COVID-19 pandemic prompting many Valley residents to vote early

In addition to the drop boxes, counties across Central California will also open more in-person voting locations starting Saturday.
MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- This year has seen historic levels of early voting, mostly from voters dropping off or mailing in their ballots.

This may be an election year like no other, but outside of masks and social distancing, voters like Ricardo Esparza say their experience was similar to years past.

Esparza says, "I voted early because this way there's not a lot of people."

With the presidential race prompting record early voter numbers nationwide, Esparza says he wanted to avoid any crowds, as the pandemic is also at the forefront of this election year. "Life is changing right now, so we have to go with it," he said.

A steady stream of early voters could be seen outside of the Madera County Government Center, casting their mail-in ballots at one of seven drop box locations.

In addition to the drop boxes, counties across Central California will also open more in-person voting locations starting Saturday. Mask requirements will be in place and social distancing markers are spaced throughout designated Vote Centers in Madera county.

Chief Assistant County Clerk recorder Justin White says more than 28,000 ballots have already been returned in Madera County. That represents more than 40% of their registered voters.

He says, "All of the vote centers are open 8 am - 5 pm, and there will be vote center workers there and available to them."

Election workers can replace ballots, answer questions, and process last-minute voter registration at the Vote Centers. Unlike traditional polling places, any voter can use any location in their county. But if you don't need assistance, you can skip the line by using a dropbox.

"We're encouraging people to turn those in now so we can get them counted, and they'll be a part of that first set of results on election day," White says.

Because County officials are expecting such a large turnout, they're asking you to vote early and vote NOW if possible. If you do wait until Tuesday, don't be discouraged. They plan to have the mobile voting unit at the Madera County Government Center to mitigate wait times and long lines.
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