A Visit to One of San Diego County's New Vote Centers

Voting early and voting on Election Day in San Diego County got easier this March 3rd, 2020 Presidential Primary Election.

As the State of California continues to improve the voting process, San Diego County's Registrar of Voters has rolled out a new way to vote in San Diego County for the first time: Voting Centers, also known as Satellite Voting Locations.

A view of the parking lot for the East County Satellite Voting Location: The Spring Valley Community Center.

A view of the parking lot for the East County Satellite Voting Location: The Spring Valley Community Center.

What is a voting center?

Voting Centers are four brand new "satellite" offices positioned around San Diego County for the March 2020 Primary. These public centers with free parking were set up in order to make it faster and easier for any eligible San Diego County resident to register or change their party preference on election day, March 3rd, 2020.

In 2018, any existing or first time voter could go to the Registrar of Voters office in Kearny Mesa to process same-day registration and vote*. This year, these four additional Voting Centers are also open to any county resident eligible to vote, no matter where you reside in the county. The four locations are spread across the county's population centers, including Chula Vista, Spring Valley, San Marcos, and Carmel Mountain Ranch. The Registrar of Voter's office in Kearny Mesa will still be equipped for voting, just as in previous years.

What can you expect when you go to a voting center?

Oren Robinson is an Engage San Diego team member and shared their experience voting at the Spring Valley Voting Center on Saturday, February 29th, 2020:

I checked the official live map online before I got into my car. I saw that there was an estimated wait time of just 2 minutes at the nearest Voting Center to me. [link]

When I got to the Voting Center, which was set up inside the Spring Valley Community Center, there was plenty of free parking spaces and volunteers and security staff out front directing voters inside.

Right away, a friendly poll worker came up and handed me a clipboard with a tiny form for me to fill out: name, birthday, street address, and "Have you ever voted in San Diego County before?"

San Diego County Satellite Voting Location Ballot Request Form

Since I had voted in the county before, I didn't need to fill out a registration form. Instead, they pointed me inside the converted gym to one of the free check-in counters -- no line!

Once I handed the poll worker behind the counter my form, they quickly looked up my registration status, confirmed my information was correct, and handed me two things: An envelope, just like the one I got in the mail before when I receive a mail-in ballot, and a "one-time-use voting card": a plastic card that looked just like a credit card with no name or number on it.

At that point, I took the envelope and the "one-time-use voting card" over to the rows of mostly-vacant voting booths on the other side of the gym. Each booth had a big touchscreen computer, card-reader, and a printer.

As soon as I inserted my card in the slot, the big touchscreen turned on and asked me my preferred language. Then I was displayed my ballot, one office or measure at a time. I could leave any page blank, or select up to the maximum number of choices. Then I reviewed my choices and hit "Print your choices". Out of the printer came a standard 8.5'' X 11'' piece of paper that was my ballot. My ballot showed a QR code in the top left corner, and all of my choices for reference on the same page.

Another poll worker saw that I was finished printing, and helped me fold the paper, insert it in the envelope, sign and date it, and then seal it with a glue stick and drop it in the ballot drop-off box.

In three minutes flat, I had voted! And most importantly, I got my "I voted" sticker. 

Where can you learn more?

*As of 2020 in California in 2020, any eligible voter who hasn't cast their ballot yet has the right to register and vote in person at their polling place, any voting center, or at the Registrar of Voters office in Kearny Mesa. Whether they are already registered, want to update their information or party preference, or need to register for the first time, voters can register and vote up to and including on Election Day. For the March 2020 Presidential Primary Election, if a voter comes to vote in person and needs to update or register past February 18th, 2020, their ballot will still count but their vote will take the form of a provisional ballot. This type of voting is technically referred to as "conditional voter registration" in California, though often it's referred to as "same-day registration" because it's similar to voting procedures on election day in other states.

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