Hear from SV@Home’s Action Fund Civic Engagement Manager Mario Lopez about the Santa Clara County Votes Coalition Kick-Off and the importance of voter engagement in the 2020 election cycle. See the original article in San Jose Spotlight.

Dozens of South Bay residents gathered at Rookies Sports Lodge this week to learn more about the sweeping changes to the Santa Clara County voting system ahead of the consequential 2020 elections.

With prominent social issues like the housing crisis front and center, Mario Lopez, a civic engagement manager at Silicon Valley At Home, stressed the importance of energizing voters from all walks of life to get to the polls.

“It’s really important to engage infrequent voters, low income voters, voters of color, who are traditionally not as engaged with the democratic process to get them engaged, because they tend to benefit the most out of a potential revenue measure that would fund the production of affordable housing,” Lopez said Thursday.

He referenced Measure V, an affordable housing measure which failed last year because it didn’t reach a two-thirds supermajority, and would’ve funded $450 million dollars for low-income housing projects in San Jose.

But as South Bay elected leaders eye another affordable housing measure, major changes are coming to the county’s voting process next year. The Voters Choice Act, which aims to make voting more accessible to residents and increase turnout, will be implemented in time for the primary 2020 election in March.

On Thursday, residents attended Santa Clara County Votes Coalition Kick-Off to hear about the changes coming down the pike.  The coalition is comprised of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters and Silicon Valley at Home’s Action Fund, which advocates for housing affordability. The agencies partnered to launch voter registration and educational campaigns.

One of the changes in 2020 includes a vote-by-mail ballot for every registered voter. Voters can go to any vote center across the county to do their civic duty, instead of an assigned precinct location.

Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said it’s “more days, more ways,” to cast a vote — up to 10 days before election day. There will be one vote center  for every 50,000 registered voters in the area, and one vote center will be open for every 10,000 registered voters up to four days before Election Day.

Lopez said the extended voting days and the ability to cast a ballot anywhere will benefit people who work long hours or have more than one job.

In the past, Santa Clara County lawmakers expressed concern that an all-mail election might be too costly. However, Bushey said the changes will be beneficial in the long run.

“The vote centers and the vote center model does cost more money, but I think every penny of it is worth it,” Bushey said. “Because we are providing more accessible locations, more accessible voting equipment, any voter can go anywhere (and we’re) mailing them the ballot.”

Vote centers will also now print ballots in a range of languages.

Bushey added that she hopes people with disabilities, language assistance and people from underrepresented communities can benefit from the Voters Choice Act.

Contact San José Spotlight intern Judy Ly at jujudyly@gmail.com or follow @_jujudymedia on Twitter.

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