County of Sonoma, California
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Special Circumstances at the Polls

Assisting a Voter

California law permits voters to enlist up to two people to assist in marking a ballot; the voter may choose the person(s) to assist, but may not include the voter's employer, union representative, or an agent of the voter's employer or union. The person assisting may be a poll worker. There is no minimum age requirement for the person assisting.

If the voter requests assistance in marking his/her ballot, you must:

  • Administer the following oath to the voter (voter repeats): "I declare, under oath, that I am unable to mark my ballot, and request assistance in doing so."
  • Allow the voter to select up to two persons to assist him/her.
  • Record the name of the voter on the "Assisted Voter List" on the inside back cover of the Index.
  • Process the voter in the usual manner.
  • Direct the voter and the person(s) assisting to any available booth to vote.

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Challenging a Voter

A voter's right to vote may be challenged by a poll worker on Election Day; other voters may not perform a challenge. It is not only your right, but your duty as a poll worker, to challenge a voter you have reason to believe is not eligible to vote. You may also request any other person present in the polling place to be sworn and to answer questions, if you believe he/she may have knowledge concerning the facts of a challenge. Any doubt in the interpretation of the law shall be resolved in favor of the challenged voter.

If the precinct board feels that persistent challenging of voters results in delays which cause other voters to forego voting because of insufficient time or fear of intimidation, discontinue all challenges and so note on the inside back cover of the Combined Roster.

Challenges must be given aloud and may be made only on the following grounds:

  1. The voter is not the person whose name appears on the Combined Roster.
  2. The voter is not a resident of the precinct (does not apply to Provisional voters or voters who have moved within 14 days prior to the election).
  3. The voter is not a U.S. citizen.
  4. The voter has already voted that day.
  5. The voter is currently on parole for the conviction of a felony.

To challenge a voter you must:

  • Determine the grounds for a challenge (see above).
  • Read the voter the following statement: "If any person challenged refuses to take the oaths tendered or refuses to be sworn and to answer the questions concerning the matter of residence, that person shall not be allowed to vote. Do you swear (or affirm) under penalty of perjury to answer these questions truthfully?"
  • Select the appropriate statement or question below (see corresponding grounds for the challenge numbered above), and ask the voter to respond:
    1. “You do swear (or affirm) that you are the person whose name is entered on the Combined Roster.”
    2. Locate Section “IV. Conduct of Elections, 5. Challenge” in your Election Officers Digest. Read all sections under “Determination of Residence and Domicile" to the voter; then ask "Are you a resident of this precinct?”
    3. “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?”
    4. “You do swear (or affirm) that you have not previously voted in this election, either by Vote by Mail ballot or at a polling place.”
    5. “You do swear (or affirm) that you are not on parole for the conviction of a felony.”

If the voter answers "yes," do not ask any other questions. Allow the voter to vote.

If the voter answers "no," the voter is not allowed to vote. If the voter insists on voting, issue a Provisional ballot (see Checklist & Instructions: Processing Provisional Voters").

After performing a challenge, record the following information on the "Challenged Voter List" on the inside back cover of the Combined Roster:

  • The name and address of the challenged voter.
  • The name, address, and any other identification of persons giving information about a challenge.
  • The grounds, determination, and evidence of each challenge.

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Electioneering

California state law forbids electioneering within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place on Election Day. Prohibited activities include the following:

  1. Circulating an initiative, referendum, recall or nomination petition.
  2. Soliciting a vote or speaking to a voter about marking the voter's ballot.
  3. Placing a sign relating to a voter's qualifications or speaking to a voter on the subject of that voter's qualifications.
  4. Campaigning for or against a particular candidate or measure by verbal or written methods (e.g. buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, signs).

Electioneering may not occur within 100 feet from the entrance to the room(s) where voters are signing the Combined Roster and casting ballots. If someone is participating in any prohibited activities described above, you must:

  • Inform the person that the activity is considered electioneering and is against California state law.
  • Ask the individual to refrain from the activity, or move to a distance greater than 100 feet from the entrance to the polling place.
  • Contact the Registrar of Voters Office and ask for a supervisor if the individual does not comply; assistance will be sent to your polling place.
  • Contact the appropriate authorities if you need immediate assistance (law enforcement officials have been notified of the locations of the polling places within the jurisdictions and will assist if needed).

NOTE: Electioneering provisions do not apply to Exit polls (see Press & Media/Exit Polls). For information regarding legitimate observers, see "Observers."

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HAVA Voters
(First-Time Federal Voters)

HAVA (Help America Vote Act) voters, also known as "First-Time Federal Voters" (FTFV) are designated with "ID" under the column titled "HAVA ID" between "LINE #" and "VBM" in the Combined Roster (Federal elections only). These are voters who registered to vote by mail but failed to provide their California driver's license numbers or California identification card numbers, or if they had neither, the last four (4) digits of their Social Security numbers, on their voter registration cards. Prior to being allowed to vote in a Federal election, these voters MUST either show an accepted form of identification or vote a Provisional ballot. Voters must only show you the identification; do not write down any information.

You may accept any valid and current photo identification (does not need to show current residence address) such as:

  1. California Driver's License
  2. California Identification Card
  3. Military Identification Card
  4. Student Identification Card
  5. Costco Membership Card
  6. Health Club Membership Card

OR

You may accept alternate forms of identification that show both the voter's name AND current residence address, such as:

  1. Utility Bill
  2. Bank Statement
  3. Lease or Rent Statements
  4. Insurance Card
  5. Any Government-issued Document, Check, or Paycheck

NOTE: If the voter does not wish to display ID, issue a Provisional ballot.

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 Voter Moved (Voter Not at Address Shown)

If you cannot locate the voter’s name on the Combined Roster, ask the voter if he/she moved recently:

  • If the voter has moved:
    1. Out of Sonoma County or into Sonoma County from another county on or before 15 days prior to Election Day and did not reregister, voter is not entitled to vote in this election.
      • Give the voter a Voter Registration Card so the voter may register to vote for future elections.
    2. Within Sonoma County on or before 15 days prior to Election Day and did not reregister, voter is entitled to vote a Provisional ballot at the polling place designated for the new address, or at the Registrar of Voters Office.
      • Give the voter a sheet from the scratch pad with the Registrar of Voters Office phone numbers, and have the voter phone the Registrar of Voters Office.
    3. Within Sonoma County 14 or fewer days prior to Election Day, the voter is entitled to vote a regular ballot at the polling place designated for his/her prior address. The voter’s name should appear on the Combined Roster at the polling place for the prior address. The voter should sign the former address on the Combined Roster at the prior polling place, and given a voter registration form to re-register at the new address for future election. Or the voter may vote a Provisional ballot at the polling place for the new address, or at the Registrar of Voters Office.
      • If the voter does not know the polling place for either his/her new or prior address, have the voter call the Registrar of Voters Office with the precinct cell phone.
    4. Within the precinct boundaries (at any time), the voter is entitled to vote a regular ballot (voter should sign new address).
      • Give the voter a Voter Registration Card so that he/she will be properly registered at the new address to ensure delivery of election materials and avoid delay in future elections.
      When in doubt, provide the voter a provisional ballot. See Checklists & Instructions for processing provisional voters.

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Observers

Observers (including campaign workers) are allowed at polling places as long as they comply with the rules in the California Elections Code. Members of the media conducting exit polls are not considered observers (see "Press & Media/Exit Polls").

Observers may:

  1. Inspect the Combined Roster. However, these inspections may not impede, interfere with or interrupt the normal process of voting and processing voters.
  2. Request to observe/inspect — without physical contact — the integrity of external security seals used to secure voting equipment; however, these inspections may not interfere with the conduct of the election or privacy of any voter.
  3. Inspect and copy from the Precinct-Street Indices posted near the entrance to the polling place without removing them from the posted location.
  4. Observe all activities at the polling place (including closing polls procedures) without interfering with the normal procedures.

Observers may not:

  1. Engage in any electioneering (see "Electioneering").
  2. Sit at the precinct board table. Only poll workers and voters signing the Combined Roster may sit at the table while the polls are open, or during the closing polls procedures.
  3. Be within the immediate area of the voting booths while the polls are open (except to inspect seals on voting equipment – see above).
  4. Remove the Precinct-Street Indices posted near the entrance to the polling place.
  5. Disrupt or interfere with voting or the "closing polls" process in any way, or exhibit behavior that intimidates voters or poll workers.

If an observer does not comply with the rules, you should:

  • Ask the observer to cease the prohibited activity.
  • If the observer is non-compliant or argumentative, call your Field Support Officer or the Registrar of Voters Office and ask to speak with a supervisor.
  • If the observer is non-compliant or disruptive and you need immediate assistance, call the appropriate law enforcement authorities — phone numbers are in the Inspector's binder.
  • Do not be intimidated by observers. They may use false statements to intimidate poll workers into allowing prohibited activities. If you have any questions, call the Registrar of Voters Office and ask to speak with a supervisor.

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Press & Media/Exit Polls

Election Day attracts a lot of attention from the media, and there is a possibility that a reporter will visit your polling place to do an interview, videotape activity, or conduct an exit poll*.

The Secretary of State and Attorney General have determined, based on court decisions, that exit polls do not fall under the provisions and/or prohibitions of electioneering (see "Electioneering"). Therefore, the electioneering provisions of the Elections Code do not apply to the news media conducting exit polls. However, no one may interfere with the conduct of the election. Therefore, news media staff have been instructed to remain at least 25 feet from the entrance to the polling place. Occasionally this rule is tested, particularly in inclement weather. If you have any problems regarding members of the media or exit polls, call the Registrar of Voters Office as soon as possible and request to speak with a supervisor.

* An "exit poll" is a poll taken by members of the press in which they ask voters leaving the polling place how they voted.

Representatives of the press/media may not:

  1. Interfere with the conduct of the election.
  2. Speak to voters about their voting choices inside the polling place.
  3. Speak to voters about their voting choices within 25 feet from the entrance to the polling place.
  4. Compromise a voter's privacy.

Representatives of the press/media may:

  1. Conduct an exit poll at least 25 feet from the entrance of the polling place.
  2. Take pictures inside the polling place (without compromising a voter's privacy).
  3. Take videotape inside the polling place (without compromising a voter's privacy).

The press and media provide a valuable service to our community, so please treat them courteously and respectfully. If you have questions regarding the activities of the press and media, please telephone the Registrar of Voters Office and ask to speak with a supervisor.

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Spoiled Ballots

If a voter defaces or spoils a ballot, the voter may return the spoiled ballot and receive a new one. California law permits a voter to receive a total of three (3) ballots — including the original ballot. Remember: three strikes, you're out!

If a voter spoils a ballot and requests a new one you must:

  • Retrieve all ballot cards issued to the voter.
  • Mark each of the retrieved ballot cards "SPOILED," or
  • Mark the outside of the secrecy envelope containing the spoiled ballot cards "SPOILED."
  • Place cards in the plastic envelope with the yellow Spoiled/Canceled Ballot label and place in the Unused Ballot Container.
  • Issue the voter an entire new set of ballot cards;

OR

  • Tear off an entire new set of ballot cards.
  • Retrieve only the card(s) that the voter spoiled.
  • Hand the voter the corresponding card(s) from the new set you just tore off the pad.
  • Mark the remaining new cards and the voter's spoiled card(s) "SPOILED," or
  • Place the remaining new cards and the voter's spoiled card(s) into a secrecy envelope and mark the outside of the secrecy envelope "SPOILED."
  • Place spoiled cards in the plastic envelope with the yellow Spoiled/Canceled Ballot label and place in the Unused Ballot Container.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT issue a new ballot to a voter whose ballot has been deposited in the Ballot Box; ballots are neither retrievable nor identifiable. Explain to the voter that because voting is done by secret ballot, you will not be able to identify his/her first ballot in order to void it and issue another one.

If the voter becomes argumentative or wishes to complain, give the voter the telephone numbers for the Registrar of Voters Office.

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Voters With Disabilities

The Registrar of Voters Office makes every attempt to secure polling places that are accessible to voters with disabilities. Be aware of obstructions in the polling place that may inhibit voters with disabilities. Carefully survey the inside of the polling place and consider the needs of all voters when placing voting booths and moving furniture.

Poll workers should observe the following common courtesies:

  • Be considerate of the extra time a disabled or elderly person may take.
  • Speak directly to the voter, not to companions.
  • Speak calmly, slowly, and directly to hearing impaired voters. Do not shout; write a note if necessary.
  • Ask before attempting to assist a voter; do not assume a voter wants your help. Allow visually impaired voters to take your arm if you provide walking assistance.
  • Be aware that assistance dogs should be allowed in all buildings; these trained dogs need no assistance from others, and you should not attempt to intervene.
  • Greet visually impaired voters by introducing yourself; "narrate" your actions by describing the location of items, and provide a signature guide for signing (in supply pouch).
  • Tables used by voters in wheelchairs should have 29-34" knee space (height).

Poll workers should offer the following resources when appropriate:

  1. Disabled Access Unit (DAU).
  2. Wheelchair-accessible (or chair-level) voting booth.
  3. Curbside voting for voters unable to access the polling place.
  4. Magnifying sheet for visually impaired voters.
  5. Styrofoam balls to retrofit a Mark-A-Vote pen for easier grasping.
  6. Assistance from another person (see "Assisting a Voter").

If you have a voter who wishes to use the DAU:

  • Follow the usual procedures to locate and cross out the voter's name on the Combined Roster. In a primary election, note the voter's political party.
  • Ask the voter to step to the area where the JBC is located.
  • Refer to your Desk Reference for the instructions to issue a ballot from the JBC.
  • When closing the polls, record the total number of DAU voters on the Ballot Statement.

If you have been informed that a voter wishes to use curbside voting:

  • Follow the usual procedures to locate and cross out the voter's name on the Combined Roster. In a primary election, note the voter's political party.
  • Gather the following: Roster for Curbside Voting, Mark-A-Vote pen, Official ballot, secrecy envelope.
  • Exit the polling place and ask the voter to sign the Roster for Curbside Voting; give the voter the ballot, pen, and secrecy envelope; step aside to give the voter privacy until the voter has finished marking the ballot.
  • Ask the voter to place the ballot card(s) into the secrecy envelope; retrieve all materials.
  • Return to the polling place; deposit the ballot into the Ballot Box.
  • When closing the polls, record the total number of curbside voters on the Ballot Statement.

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Questions about accessibility should be directed to the Registrar of Voters Office.