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Nevada City, Calif. February 3, 2021 – The 2020-2021 Nevada County Grand Jury (Jury) today released its investigation into the County Election Office’s ability to manage the 2021 Presidential election and its readiness for unforeseen events. Based on interviews with election officials and in-person inspections of election offices and multiple voting centers, the Jury concluded that officials were well prepared and the election proceeded smoothly, with minimal disruption.  Nevada County certified its results on November 25, nearly a week earlier than required by State law, while confirming a high turnout of nearly 90% of registered County voters. 

Jurors observed that poll workers were knowledgeable, helpful, and well-trained to interact with voters.  Covid-19 concerns were addressed by vote center workers, assigned to disinfect surfaces after every use.  Pens were provided for ballot marking and not reused, instead given to each individual voter.  Concerns regarding illegal ‘electioneering’ at poll sites, including the presence of candidate signs and merchandise, were largely kept in check.  Back-up generators and ballot materials were well stocked but not needed.

Summary

California voters passed the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) in 2016, and Nevada County adopted it by the 2018 elections. The VCA allows voters to choose how, when, and where to cast their ballots. Each registered voter is mailed a ballot and a postage paid return envelope, making it easy for them to vote before election day using the United States Postal Service or by depositing the ballot in a secure drop box. Of course, voters may also vote in person if they prefer.

Prior to the 2020 Presidential General Election, Nevada County conducted nine VCA elections without any major issues. Election officials report after three years of VCA, voters have become experienced and confident with the choice to use an official drop box, to vote by mail, or to vote in person. They estimated over 90% of voters return their ballots by mail or drop them in one of the secure drop boxes.

Presidential General Elections usually require more planning by officials because the turnouts are higher than in other elections. The November 2020 election presented additional challenges because of Covid-19 virus, possible Public Safety Power Shutoffs, concerns about timely mail delivery and threats of voter intimidation.

Detailed planning was critical. New vote centers had to be secured to meet physical distancing requirements and policies updated to allow for new challenges. Over 120 people were hired and trained, and a variety of additional resources were added to ensure a smooth election.

The Nevada County Grand Jury observed this election cycle by interviewing election officials, taking virtual and in-person tours of the elections office and visiting multiple vote centers over several days. We observed that contingencies were in place for most possible scenarios: generators and emergency lighting in place for the loss of power, back up ballots were available for all precincts if printers were inoperative, easy access to the Elections Office and election officials to assist as needed.

Vote center workers provided a step-by-step explanation of the voting process. One vote center worker was assigned to disinfect surfaces after every use. Pens were provided for ballot marking and they were not reused, and were instead kept by each individual voter.

Jurors observed that poll workers were knowledgeable, helpful, and well-trained when interacting with voters. Voters who came in with predetermined voting choices took about ten minutes to complete their ballots.

Nevada County certified its results on November 25 confirming that 65,800 voters cast a ballot. Voter turnout was 87.6% of the registered 75,123 voters.

Based on the 2020 Presidential General Election, Nevada County voters should have confidence in their election officials. They are competent, knowledgeable, and concerned about ensuring a edit smooth election.

Download the full Grand Jury report:  http://nccourt.net/divisions/gj-reports.shtml

About the Nevada County Grand Jury

The Nevada County Grand Jury is comprised of 19 citizens selected by the Nevada County Superior Court. Jurors serve one-year terms that conclude each year on June 30. The Jury serves to ensure effective and efficient government within the county and also fields citizen complaints.  County residents can apply to serve on the 2021-22 Jury and/or file a complaint at: http://nccourt.net/divisions/gj-about.shtml