Vote By Mail ballots are arriving in mailboxes, kicking off the voting season that runs through Nov. 8.
Anyone who is eligible to vote but has not yet registered still has time to do so: registrations are accepted online up to 15 days before Election Day, meaning this year’s deadline is Monday, Oct. 24. Complete online registration by visiting registertovote.ca.gov.
If you happen to miss that deadline, same-day voter registration is available; however, you will be voting under what’s known as a Conditional Voter Registration and your vote could take a few extra days to join the tally.
Whether a state requires voters to request an absentee ballot or participates in universal mail-in voting, all ballots cast by mail or dropped off at a drop box are vetted to ensure their legitimacy.
Election officials log every mail ballot so voters cannot request more than one. Those ballots also are logged when they are returned, checked against registration records and, in many cases, voter signatures are on file to ensure the voter assigned to the ballot is the one who cast it.
Still, mail ballots are one of the most frequent targets of misinformation around voting, despite fraud being rare.
Different states have different ballot verification protocols. All states require a voter’s signature, while some states have additional precautions, like having bipartisan teams compare that signature to a signature on file, requiring the signature to be notarized or requiring a witness to sign.
In Los Angeles County, voters must sign the eligibility oath and date the ballot’s return envelope before submitting their ballot. Every signature is verified before the ballot is cleared for counting. If a signature is missing or if the signature does not match the one on file, the County will notify the impacted voter to allow the voter an opportunity to provide a valid signature.
In almost every state, mailed ballots can be tracked online through a unique bar code on the envelope, allowing voters to watch the movement of their ballot until it is counted. Ballot security features and ballot sorting at election offices help weed out any counterfeits, though election officials say fake ballots have not been a problem in U.S. elections.
Secure ballot drop boxes are placed in public locations and emptied only by trained election staff, to prevent anyone else from tampering with the votes inside.
Santa Monica has four ballot drop boxes at Marine Park (1406 Marine St), Montana Avenue Library (1704 Montana Ave), Main Library (601 Santa Monica Blvd), and Virginia Avenue Park (2200 Virginia Ave). Ballots can be dropped off at any location including other nearby boxes like the Palisades Branch Library (861 Alma Real Dr), Donald Bruce Kaufman – Brentwood Branch Library (11820 San Vicente Blvd), West Los Angeles Regional Library (11360 Santa Monica Blvd), Stoner Recreation Center (1835 Stoner Ave), Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library (501 Venice Blvd) and Mar Vista Branch Library (12006 Venice Blvd).
As with other forms of election fraud, harsh penalties for voter fraud by mailed ballot act as another deterrent. Depending on the circumstance, voter fraud charges can result in a fine, prison time or both.
Despite widespread claims of mail-in and absentee ballot fraud, the reality is it’s exceedingly rare. The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004% to 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.
Meanwhile, a May 2022 Associated Press survey of states that allowed the use of drop boxes in the 2020 presidential election found no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft involving drop boxes that could have affected the results.
Early birds who really want to get a jump on in-person voting can cast a ballot as of Oct. 10 in one location: the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Norwalk Headquarters, which opens 29 days before Election Day.
For everyone else, early voting begins Saturday, Oct. 29, although most vote centers won’t open until Nov. 5.
Santa Monica in-person vote centers will be located at Grant Elementary School (2368 Pearl St), Joslyn Park (633 Kensington Rd), Marine Park (1406 Marine St), National Typewriter Company (1666 Euclid St), Professional Development Learning Ctr (2802 4th St), Roosevelt Elementary School 801 Montana Ave (Rustic Canyon Recreation Center) Santa Monica College (1900 Pico Blvd), St Anne Church and Shrine (2011 Colorado Ave), Virginia Avenue Park (2200 Virginia Ave).
Visit smdp.com for more election coverage and a map of box locations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.