County installs 24-hour voting drop box in Downtown Berkeley

Aditi Raghunath/Staff

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Voters currently residing in Alameda County can now drop off their vote-by-mail ballot at any time thanks to a new drop box, which is located in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center in Downtown Berkeley.

Previously, absentee voters could either mail in their ballots or hand them in at the city clerk’s department during normal business hours. The new drop box allows these voters to submit their vote-by-mail ballots to secure boxes without using postage stamps, after which the ballots will be counted and collected by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, according to a Wednesday press release from the City of Berkeley.

“One thing that happens a lot is voters get ballots in the mail, they set it aside, and they vote late in the process,” said Guy Ashley, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

Ashley added that due to the large number of ballots that are cast on or near election days, the results of the elections are often delayed several days from being announced.

Alameda County began installing drop boxes in 2012 to accommodate the growing and now majority of voters who chose to submit their ballots by mail. Since then, a total of 14 drop boxes have been installed outside the city hall of every city in Alameda County in preparation for the presidential primary.

“They can (vote) Downtown and they can do it ahead of time,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

The main goal of the box, according to Chakko, is to increase convenience and accessibility for voting and to allow voters to submit an absentee ballot on election day.

In a Friday press release, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters also announced a “Ballot Drop Stop” at two locations in Oakland that would be open for the weekends prior to and on election day. The “drop stops” will allow residents to drive by and submit their ballots to a Registrar staff member without leaving their cars.

Chakko said he hopes the drop box will increase voting convenience; however, campus political science associate professor Gabriel Lenz expressed concerns that it would not address other general issues such as low voter turnout among young voters.

“Voting tends to be a habit that people develop and keep doing, and (young) people haven’t picked up that habit,” Lenz said.

Lenz added that he doesn’t expect the addition of drop boxes to greatly affect ballot submissions in upcoming elections.

While there is no definite plan to expand the use of drop boxes in the future, Ashley said the Alameda County Registrar of Voters will act according to the feedback from local residents and city clerks.

Ballots can be submitted for the presidential primary before 8 pm on June 7.

Contact Vera Esail at [email protected].