New changes will make casting a ballot easier in Fresno County

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new way of voting is coming to Fresno County.

The Board of Supervisors approved switching to the Voter's Choice Act Tuesday. It gives every voter a mail-in ballot and allows voting days in advance.

Fresno County's more than 200 voting machines are obsolete and by law, must be replaced before the next election.

Under the Voter's Choice Act, the county will need to replace them with only 50 machines for use in centralized voting centers. It saves $1.6 million.

With mail-in voting being pushed, fewer machines are needed and County Clerk Brandi Orth says the Voters Choice Act will make voting easier.

"You'll be able to, if you need to go to the polls, you will be able to go, prior to election day, over the weekend, they will probably be located near your grocery store, running your errands, you won't be tied to any one location," Orth said. "If everything is fine, and you can vote your ballot and return it to us, by mail or drop off, that's terrific."

Mail-in ballots can be dropped in the mail, postage free, or placed in the drop off boxes to be located around the county.

Voters who choose to walk in and vote can do so up to 11 days before Election Day at any of 50 voting centers to be located around the county.

The Voters Choice Act is promoted by Secretary of State Alex Padilla who was in Fresno for a luncheon. He applauded the Board of Supervisors' decision.

"With the addition of Fresno County, now more than half the voters in the state now live in a county under the Voter's Choice Act with additional options of when, where and how to cast their ballots and I believe its the way of the future," said Supervisor Alex Padilla.

But the vote was not unanimous. Supervisor Brian Pacheco voted no.

"How convenient, another rule by the state of California to shove this down our throat. that's really what that is and I for one don't appreciate it," Pacheco said.

Several opponents including Fresno County Republican Party Chairman Fred Vanderhoof spoke out against the Voters Choice Act, but Padilla said the goal is to simply increase voter participation.

"We know around the country there is a fight for voting rights, other states are making it harder for eligible people to be registered to vote and frankly, making it harder for registered voters to cast their ballot," Padilla said. "In California, we are working hard to maintain both the security and integrity as well as the accessibility of our elections. I think the voters choice act does exactly that."

Five other counties, including Madera County, have already adopted the Voters Choice Act.

They reported an average increase in turnout of about 3%, Fresno County joins Los Angeles and Orange Counties in adopting the act for the 2020 election.

The Fresno County Elections Office will begin community outreach and education programs to better inform the voters of the coming changes.
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