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Napa County residents will soon be receiving ballots in the mail that will give them a voice on city council races, Napa Valley College trustees, a proposed hotel tax hike and a host of federal and state contests.

Their chance to participate in the Nov. 6 election is just about here. County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur said the 76,000 ballots should arrive in local mailboxes before Oct. 15. Registered voters who don’t receive ballots by then should call 253-4322.

Here’s a difference from the June election – voters won’t have to worry about stamps. The county is paying the postage to return the ballots.

“That’s the main change,” Tuteur said.

Otherwise, the county’s second election under the state Voter’s Choice Act should be much like the first in June. Ballots will arrive in the mail. Voters can mail them back, return them using drop boxes along streets or return them at vote centers.

But the county is trying to make some improvements.

The drop box on Soscol Avenue near Lincoln Avenue in Napa was sometimes hard to find before the June election because people parked in front of it. This time, the area in front will be a no-parking zone and the drop box will have a flag to make it more conspicuous.

Napa County is adding a drop box on Solano Avenue south of Redwood Road in Napa. Eight drop boxes across the county will be available all day, every day before the election starting Oct. 9.

The county will have eight vote centers, some opening Oct. 27 and some Nov. 3. Voters going there can talk with election officials.

In the June election, 47 percent of the ballots were returned by mail, 28 percent at vote centers and 25 percent at drop boxes, Tuteur said.

In June, Napa County was one of five pilot counties in the California using all vote-by-mail ballots under the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA). The stated goal of the law is to make voting easier and more convenient.

Napa County’s turnout was 49.22 percent, up 10 percent from the previous gubernatorial primary in June 2014.

“But the whole state went up 10 percent,” Tuteur said. “Whether the VCA made any difference in the five counties, nobody knows. My guess is it wasn’t a major impact.”

For one thing, 90 percent of Napa County voters used vote-by-mail ballots before the county made this the only option in June by closing the few remaining polling places.

The county in the last gubernatorial election of November 2014 had a turnout of 54.99 percent. Tuteur declined to guess what the turnout will be this November.

“I never predict,” Tuteur said. “I hope it’s better than 54.99 percent.”

People who are not registered to vote still have time. They can register by mail or online through Oct. 22. Go to https://bit.ly/2P5LSUm for more information. After that, they can register in person through Election Day using a process called Conditional Voter Registration.

Napa, American Canyon, Calistoga and St. Helena have city council races on the Nov. 6 ballot. Three Yountville Town Council members have no opposition. Each city and the county have placed items on the ballot that would raise the transient occupancy tax by 1 percent to raise money for affordable housing.

The Napa Valley College Board of Trustees has four seats on the ballot, three of them contested. The Napa Valley Unified School District has four uncontested seats on the ballot. Various other school districts have seats on the ballot, most of them uncontested.

Federal offices include a race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and challenger Kevin de Leon, both Democrats. Locally, incumbent Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, is being challenged by Anthony Mills, who has no party preference.

Among the state races is the battle for governor between Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and John Cox, a Republican. Among the 11 propositions is Proposition 6 to repeal state fuel tax increases and vehicle taxes that go to street maintenance and transportation projects.

“My final message always is, ‘This is an important election and please exercise your precious right to vote,’” Tuteur said.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He was worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield. He is a graduate of UC Sa