By John Ramos

MARTINEZ (KPIX) — With the election less than ten weeks away, here is what you need to know about registering to vote and making sure the vote you cast was counted.

The Contra Costa County town of Martinez is decked out in red, white and blue. It’s the kind of thing that might inspire people to do their civic duty.

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Elections departments across the state have been preparing for that.

“A year ago, we were planning for record-breaking turnout,” said Contra Costa Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek.

With a huge increase in absentee voting, 79 percent in the primary election, the county purchased high-speed scanning equipment to deal with the onslaught of mail-in ballots.

But the first step is registering. All it takes is a name, address, driver’s license number or last four digits of a social security number and it can be done by mail, online or in person. The first ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 5, but people will have until Oct. 19 to request one. Beginning Oct. 20, voters will have to come to an elections office to get a ballot. By doing so means you can actually be one of the state’s earliest voters.

“You can walk into our office, fill out the right forms and you can actually cast your ballot right then,” said Konopasek.

Voters can actually wait until Election Day to register, if they want. Any polling place can now take people’s information and issue a provisional ballot, but it will be verified before the vote is actually counted.

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With all the mail-in ballots, some may have doubts about whether they will all be counted.

“I know what it used to be like to vote and you knew it was going count,” said Martinez voter Kevin Lane Smith. “Now, who knows?”

Actually, you really can know your vote is going to count thanks to a statewide system called “Ballottrax” that can track your ballot just like an Amazon package. Ballottrax will send you alerts through email, phone or text, as your ballot travels through the mail from the county to you and then back to the elections department, until the vote is officially cast.

“Oh, it would be so self-assuring to know that I could track my vote and make sure that my vote counted,” said Janet, a voter from Lafayette.

Konopasek says the tracker was created before COVID-19 even became an issue, as a way to calm wary voters fears about the new system.

“So that transparency gives confidence and enhances the integrity of the whole vote-by-mail process,” he said.
As huge changes come to the voting process, confidence is important, not just in this hotly-contested presidential election, but for all those to come.

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If you want to sign up for the ballot tracking system, go to the California Secretary of State’s website by clicking on