California election officials ask voters not to sanitize ballots

2020 Election

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Early voting is already off to a busy start in Sacramento County.

Thousands of ballots have been returned and officials are noticing some issues with how voters are filling out mail-in and drop-off ballots.

“We’ve seen a higher turnout, earlier, this year than we ever have. The first three or four days we had 3,000 ballots returned, which was three or four times what we’d normally see that early,” said Sacramento County public information officer Janna Hayes.

But along with an influx of votes they’re noticing an influx of errors.

“One of the things that has never come up before but it’s 2020 right? We have had some people come in because they have attempted to sanitize the paper,” Hayes said.

Several voters, likely afraid of the coronavirus, have tried to clean their ballots by pouring liquid sanitizer on them.

“It ruined the ballot. Not only the wording but the bar code on it that helps us scan it through the tabulator which makes it unreadable,” Hayes explained.

Hayes stresses that these ballots are put into sleeves by machines and COVID-19 does not live long on paper.

“By the time your ballot gets to you, it has been in quarantine essentially for probably more than a week. So, there’s no risk of COVID being transmitted,” Hayes said.

Another common issue for California voters is forgetting to sign the envelope before sending in their mail-in ballot.

The signature is vital to validating the ballot, officials say. Machines and people work to compare that signature with the signature used when registering to vote or getting a driver’s license.

“If we don’t feel like it matches, again, we will reach out to you to see if your signature has changed over the years as many people’s do and give you the opportunity to send us a new signature,” Hayes explained.

If a voter does damage their ballot in any way, they can come to the Board of Elections for a replacement.

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