For Immediate Release
Sonoma County’s updated Election Administration Plan approved by California Secretary of State
Santa Rosa, CA | October 31, 2023
Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Deva Marie Proto announced today that Sonoma County’s revised Election Administration Plan has been approved by the California Secretary of State’s Office.
The plan outlines how Sonoma County intends to conduct elections under the Voter’s Choice Act election model over the next four years. It can be viewed by going to SoCoVotes.com and scrolling down to the section entitled, “Sonoma County’s 2023 Election Plan Approved.” The plan is available in English, Khmer, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese (click on the language to download the PDF version of the plan).
For questions, call (707) 565-6800 (Toll-Free:  750-VOTE ; TDD:  565-6888]), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Registrar of Voters Office in person at 435 Fiscal Drive in Santa Rosa. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, excluding county holidays.
Prior to 2020, most elections in Sonoma County were conducted under a traditional polling place election model. Each registered voter was assigned to a single specific location (called a polling place) to cast their ballot on Election Day. If a voter went to the wrong location, their name would not be on the roster and they would have to vote a provisional ballot.
Over the past several decades, more Sonoma County voters began to vote by mail instead of in person. The numbers particularly increased in the early 2000s when all voters were given the option to permanently receive their ballots in the mail. For example, in the 2000 Presidential General Election, 28 percent of Sonoma County voters voted by mail, while 71 percent did so in the 2012 Presidential General Election.
In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 450, also known as the California Voter’s Choice Act. It allowed counties to adopt a more modern and streamlined method of conducting elections, offering voters more flexibility regarding how, when and where to cast their ballots. Counties that choose to conduct elections under the Voter’s Choice Act must:
- Mail every active, registered voter a ballot for every election in which they are eligible to participate.
- Dramatically expand the number of official ballot drop boxes.
- Utilize vote centers instead of polling places. Vote centers offer several major advantages over polling places:
- They are usually open multiple days, not just on Election Day (with the exception of small special elections).
- Properly registered voters in the county can cast a regular ballot at whichever vote center is most convenient for them; they do not have to go to a single preassigned location.
- Vote centers provide many expanded voter services, including conditional (i.e., same-day) voter registration, voter address changes, language assistance, and accessible ballot marking devices for voters with disabilities or those who prefer to use them.
On March 16, 2021, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved transitioning Sonoma County to the Voter’s Choice Act election model. As required by California law, the Registrar of Voters Office drafted an Election Administration Plan explaining in detail how it intended to transition to the new election model. After multiple public meetings, comment periods, and revisions, Sonoma County’s plan was given final approval by the California Secretary of State in December 2021. All elections conducted in Sonoma County in 2022 and 2023 have been under the new model.
California law additionally requires counties that have newly transitioned to the Voter’s Choice Act model to update their Election Administration Plan after two years, and every four years thereafter. Since December 2023 marks two years since Sonoma County's original Election Administration Plan was approved, the Registrar of Voters Office began the revision process this spring. Once again, several public meetings and comment periods were held before the updated plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for final approval.