May 8, 2006 - Absentee ballots' popularity growing
Copyright 2006 San Jose Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News ( California )
Distributed by Knight/Ridder Tribune News Service
May 8, 2006 Monday
SECTION: STATE AND REGIONAL NEWS
LENGTH: 421 words
HEADLINE: Absentee ballots' popularity growing: Nearly 197,000 Are Registered To Cast Votes Through Mail
BYLINE: Becky Bartindale, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.
May 8--County registrars of voters can begin mailing absentee ballots starting today, which also is the first day conscientious early birds can cast their votes by mail in the June 6 election.
"It's more about convenience than having an illness or disability," said Matt Moreles, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County registrar of voters. "We've seen a dramatic growth in the number of people who choose that option.
"There's been a shift in the public consciousness that elections don't just happen on election day."
Nearly 40 percent of California voters did it by mail using absentee ballots in last year's special election, reflecting the growing popularity of armchair voting.
A decade ago, in 1996, about 20 percent of Californians voted absentee in the general election, and only 9 percent voted absentee a decade before that.
California now offers people the option of signing up as a permanent absentee voter, instead of having to request an absentee ballot for each election.
The number of permanent absentee voters in Santa Clara County has grown from about 9,000 in March 2002 to about 197,000 out of roughly 742,600 registered voters today, Moreles said.
The majority still prefer to show up at the polls. Over the past two years, Moreles said, 60 to 70 percent of Santa Clara County voters have cast ballots in their precinct, and the rest voted absentee.
About one-third of San Mateo County voters vote absentee, according to the registrar's Web site.
Registrars don't have a preference for the method people use to vote, Moreles said, just as long as they cast their ballots.
"Our goal is to get as many people to vote as possible," he said.
Moreles said the registrar encourages people who vote absentee to return their ballots early, before Election Day, so there is ample time to verify the voter's signature, which is used as a security measure.
The registrar in Santa Clara County will begin mailing sample ballots today. Inside the mailing is a tear-away application for absentee voting, for the upcoming election or permanently.
Applications for an absentee ballot also are available on the registrars' Web sites.
May 22 is the last day to register to vote in the June 6 election.
Contact Becky Bartindale at bbartindale@mercuryn ews.com or (409) 920-5459.
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