The EAC has launched a “Women in Elections” campaign to coincide with Women’s History Month. During the month of March, we will interview several women at the heart of elections at the Secretary of State and county, and within academia, and share their insight about elections on the EAC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Follow the conversation online at #WomeninElections.
Christy, EAC: Thank you for joining me for this series, Candace. I wanted to start by asking you how your career in elections began.
Grubbs: My career began in 1986 when I was elected to the office of Butte County Clerk-Recorder, which included the Elections division. The combined office also included the Clerk of Superior Court until 1996, when Superior Court separated from the County.
Christy, EAC: You have been the Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters in Butte County for over 32 years. What are some of the biggest advances and changes you’ve seen in that time?
Grubbs: Technology by far has changed the landscape. Voting Systems have come full circle from paper-based ballots to electronic ballots and back to paper ballots in California. Internal election management systems have become more robust. Voter registration is online and there is automatic registration at the DMV with a centralized database in the state office of the Secretary of State. We now have websites and social media to reach our voters. All of this is very positive, but on the down side, it is much harder to recruit people to work at the polls. I believe this trend will continue.
Christy, EAC: Butte County was deeply impacted by the 2017 and 2018 wildfire season, particularly Camp Fire, which was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history. In fact, I have a friend who lost everything in that fire. What were the biggest challenges Butte County’s elections office faced after these wildfires and did those fires have any impact on the 2018 Midterm Elections?
Grubbs: The “Camp Fire” started 2 days after the November 6 General Election at 6:15 a.m. By the end of the day, some 46,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. Before it was contained on November 25, 2018, the Camp Fire consumed 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,793 structures, and resulted in the deaths of 85 people.
To date, this fire is the deadliest and most destructive fire in the history of the State of California. While this was going on, our challenge was to get all votes counted and the elections count certified. Our staff was also pulled to assist the public in the emergency center set up by the county.
Christy, EAC: Could you describe the public information campaign your office is conducting to urge residents displaced by the Camp Fire to update their voter registration? Why this is so important?
Grubbs: Residents scattered to all counties in the state and to other states. Some are living in temporary housing such as RV’s, rental units or with friends and family. Some have purchased homes in the county and outside of the county. No one at the time was thinking how the change of address would affect their voting status.
My office has issued press releases and put material on our website and on social media to educate the voters. Currently we are working with other agencies to update voter addresses and will be sending all affected voters postcards requesting information. If they plan on returning to their former address, they can still vote on town, district and school elections. If they do not plan on returning, then they should register at their new location. Many do not know at this point what they will do. My office will need to do a continual campaign to get the word out to reach all potential voters.
Christy, EAC: Butte County was considering several initiatives to increase voter turnout and make the process of voting easier on voters, including providing all citizens with a vote by mail ballot and the implementation of vote centers. Are those considerations still on the table?
Grubbs: Since 70 percent of our voters are voting by mail, to provide all citizens with a vote by mail ballot sounds like the logical way to proceed, except for the cost of implementation of vote centers as currently mandated by the California Legislature. We have not ruled it out entirely for the 2020 elections and are considering all of our options. Time will tell.
We at the EAC would like to thank Candace for her insight. Keep checking our blog for conversations with “Women in Elections” throughout Women’s History Month and help us celebrate these leaders in the election community.