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Don’t put hand sanitizer on your ballot — and other advice for voting in Sacramento County


The election season has jumped into top gear this week, and Sacramento County elections officials say things are going well, but not perfectly.

One surprise problem: Some voters concerned about COVID-19 have been spraying disinfectant on their ballots, smudging the print and essentially invalidating their ballot. (Advice on that below).

Here is a Tuesday update on key issues voters should know as they fill out and turn in their ballots this week:

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Mailed ballots in Sacramento

All mail-out ballots in Sacramento County should have arrived at registered voters’ residences by Monday. That includes the ballot materials envelope and the separate voters guide pamphlet.

If you haven’t received a ballot, call the elections office at 916-875-6451. The county has elections workers who speak English, Spanish and Chinese.

Don’t sanitize your ballot

Do not spray your ballot with disinfectant as protection against the coronavirus.

The county reports ballots coming in with smeared print due to spraying. Do not put the ballot in the microwave either.

County spokeswoman Janna Haynes said the ballots themselves, which are inside envelopes, have not been touched by human hands for days or likely more than a week when they arrive at your door. They should not contain any live virus.

County drop boxes

If you plan to use a drop box, make sure you use one of the 71 official boxes listed on the county website. If you hear about a drop box being promoted for use that is not on the county’s list, county elections officials ask that you call them to report it.

State officials on Monday demanded California Republican officials remove unauthorized drop-boxes that they have placed at several sites in California, including at gun stores and churches. As of Monday afternoon, Sacramento officials said they have not gotten any reports of illegal drop boxes here.

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If you use a drop box, also check first to make sure what hours the box is available for use. Almost all drop boxes are inside buildings. Some are in libraries with shorter open hours. Some are in supermarkets, though, that have extended store hours.

Voter registration

County officials report a higher number of voters than usual calling to ask about updating their official voter registration signature to make sure the signature they will sign on the ballot envelope is similar to the signature the county has on file. Typically, the county uses a voter’s DMV license signature or a previous voter registration signature.

If you feel your signature has changed substantially, you can go to the voter registration office to redo it.

Otherwise, if it is roughly similar to your driver license signature, it likely will pass review. If it doesn’t, you will be notified. You don’t have to sign exactly the same. For instance, you may or may not sign your middle name.

As of Monday, the county Voter Registration department had received the first 33,000 ballots (mail-in and drop box) for processing at its election center in south Sacramento. That unofficially represents the highest first week total the county has received.

Track your Sacramento ballot

There are two ways to track your ballot to make sure it is counted.

Some 73,000 Sacramento County voters have signed up so far for, an online system that sends you messages as your ballot makes its way through the process.

The Secretary of State has a different interface for the same tracking system. It is called “Where’s My Ballot.” It does not alert you. Instead, voters can go onto that site to check themselves the status of their ballot.

Voting centers will open

Bonus advice: For those who choose not to mail their ballots back or put them in a drop box, a handful of the county’s voting centers will open for daily voting on Oct. 24. On Oct. 31, the rest of the vote centers will be open, 84 in total.

Officials are advising voters not to wait until Nov. 3 to go to the vote center (formerly called the “polling place.”) The locations of the vote centers are listed on the mailed ballot materials and on the county voter registration website.

This story was originally published October 13, 2020 5:00 AM.

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