Voter's Choice Act
On March 16, 2021, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisorsunanimously approved transitioning Sonoma County from a polling place election model to the Voter’s Choice Act election model. What does this mean?
First, it means all active, registered voters in Sonoma County will automatically be mailed a ballot for every election in which they are eligible to participate. No need to check a box or fill out a form each election!
Second, it means continuing to offer extensive in-person voting opportunities for those who prefer to vote that way -- except now the voting locations will be open multiple days and voters can go to any location in the County they choose and still receive receive the correct ballot!
In short, Sonoma County voters will have more flexibility in choosing how, when, and where to cast their ballots!
See Calendar of Public Hearings
Historically, most elections conducted in Sonoma County have been polling place elections. Most voters are assigned to a single polling place based on their residence address. Polling places are only open on Election Day and if a voter's name does not appear on the roster of voters for that location, they have to vote a “provisional ballot,” which is not counted until after Election Day once the voter's eligibility to vote is verified.
Over the past several decades, another method of voting has become increasingly widespread in Sonoma County: voting by mail. In 1978, California became one of the first states in the country to give voters the option to apply for a Vote-by-Mail ballot without any excuse. In 2002, California further expanded voting by mail by allowing all voters to sign up to automatically receive their ballots in the mail for every election rather than have to fill out a new form each time. Changes like this have caused a significant increase in the number of Sonoma County voters voting by mail instead of at their polling place. Today, approximately 85% of Sonoma County voters are signed up as permanent Vote-by-Mail voters.
What is the Voter's Choice Act Election Model?
In 2016, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) into law. This law allows counties to offer a new model of voting that combines some of the best elements of voting by mail and in-person voting:
- All active, registered voters are automatically mailed a ballot in every election in which they are eligible to vote.
- One secure ballot drop box is installed for every 15,000 registered voters.
- In-person voting is offered at so-called “vote centers” instead of polling places. Vote centers are similar to polling places except they are open multiple days (not just on Election Day) and voters are not assigned to a single location; instead, they can go to any vote center in the County and receive the correct ballot. Not only is this far more convenient for the voters, but it should sharply decrease the number of provisional ballots that need to be processed after Election Day.
- One vote center must be open on Election Day and on each of the 10 days prior to Election Day for every 50,000 registered voters.
- One vote center must be open on Election Day and on each of the three days prior to Election Day for every 10,000 registered voters.
- A Language Accessibility Advisory Committee (LAAC) must be formed to focus on needs and concerns for minority language voters.
- A Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC) must be formed to focus on needs and concerns of voters with disabilities.
- There must be increased public outreach and communication to make voters aware of the change.
- An Election Administration Plan must be drafted by the county elections official which explains in detail how the County will transition to the Voter's Choice Act election model. The elections official must also solicit public feedback and incorporate it into the plan before submitting it to the California Secretary of State for final review.
Vote Center and Drop Box Location Criteria
When a County implements the Voter’s Choice Act Model, it is required to consider multiple factors when locating ballot boxes and vote centers. Sonoma County has created map layers using available demographic, election, and transportation data, as well as a layer modeling the combined data sets, to evaluate the areas of highest need for ballot boxes and vote centers, based on the criteria identified in Elections Code 4005.
View Sonoma County Location Criteria Data
The map does not currently show the locations of vote centers, as those are in the process of being identified.
Have a recommendation for a vote center? Let us know!