MARTINEZ (KPIX 5) – In the past, if people didn’t think their vote would count, they wouldn’t vote at all. Now, it seems like everyone will be voting, despite mistrust about whether their ballot will be counted.
There’s been a steady stream of people visiting the Contra Costa Elections Office to place their ballots into the drop box out front.
“I have heard comments from voters that they really appreciate these boxes,” Registrar of Voters Debi Cooper told KPIX 5. “It lets them know it’s going straight from their hands, to ours.”
People have seen the news reports about unofficial drop boxes put up by the GOP and one that was recently lit on fire in Southern California. So, some people are refusing the drop box in front of the Elections Department and going inside to physically hand it to a clerk. Daphne Ogle dropped hers in, but not without a certain amount of doubt.
“I want to make sure that I’m actually going to be counted and is this a real box or some fake box they’ve put out to make my vote not count?” she said.
And Barry Harrington drove from Moraga to use the drop box in Martinez because he’s lost faith in the US Postal Service.
“Right now we can’t trust that the mail isn’t going to be messed up,” he said.
Harrington has a lot of company. For example, on Oct. 14, the county took in 16,000 votes by mail. But on the same day, it collected nearly 25,000 ballots from just 35 drop boxes around the county.
Clearly, there are trust issues here, according to UC Berkeley Elections Law Professor Bertall Ross.
“So, yeah, I mean that’s where we are right now,” Ross said. “It’s a nationwide phenomenon and there’s going to have to be a lot of work done after this election to get us to the point where we trust our electoral system in the way we did, even four years ago.”
The county is doing everything it can to allay fears. Aside from installing 25 new drop boxes, they’ve purchased a new optical scanner to scrutinize voters’ signatures.
And instead of the old paper voter rolls, poll workers will now have digital devices with up-to-date information about whether someone has already voted or not.
“We do everything we can to make the election safe and secure,” said Cooper. “We have no control over what people think about that, but every time we hear of something that might be a security issue, we react to it and see what we can do to make it not be an issue.”
It’s all being done in the name of security, but also to try to restore faith in the system.
The question is, will it even matter, or will people just believe what they want to believe?