May 8, 2007 - Absentee ballots in mail
Paper: Monterey County Herald, The (CA)
Title: Absentee ballots in mail
Date: May 8, 2007
For the third straight election, more than half of all ballots in Monterey County will be absentee, reflecting a trend toward more convenient by-mail voting, said acting Registrar of Voters Claudio Valenzuela.
On Monday, elections officials sent out more than 75,000 absentee ballots for the special countywide election June 5, along with the usual mass mailing of about 146,000 sample ballots and voter information pamphlets. Voters are expected to receive the elections materials within a day or two.
Valenzuela said he has made a concerted effort to get absentee ballots out as soon as possible since he took over as acting registrar in April 2006. Instead of two to three weeks before an election, county officials have recently made a practice of sending absentee ballots nearly a month in advance, on the earliest day allowed by state law.
Absentee ballots used to be "delivered too late for my liking," Valenzuela said. "Sending absentee ballots and voter information pamphlets as early as possible ... gives the voters ample opportunity to inform themselves of the issues on the ballot. People are very busy and you can vote in the convenience of your own living room. (Absentee voters) are committed to voting. That's why I advocate the vote by mail so much."
In the county's most recent election, the November 2006 general, nearly 64 percent of all votes cast were absentee. In the June 2006 primary, about 61 percent of all votes cast were absentee.
Out of more than 81,000 absentee ballots sent out before the November 2006 election, more than 57,000 were returned as votes cast, a voter "turnout" of about 70 percent. The overall voter turnout, counting precinct polling, was nearly 62 percent. The total voter turnout for the June 2006 election was nearly 37 percent.
"It is accurate to say that voting is no more a single event but rather a period that extends 29 days before an election," Valenzuela said.
bout 2,000 new voter registrations have been received, Valenzuela said, about average for such an election.
On the June 5 ballot, voters will decide on three general plan questions, including Measure A, the citizen-written general plan initiative known as GPI; Measure B, which asks voters if they want to adopt the county supervisors-approved general plan update known as GPU4; Measure C, which asks voters if they want to repeal GPU4; and Measure D, which asks voters if they want to approve the supervisor-approved Rancho San Juan-area Butterfly Village project.
The voter information material will include two notable changes from earlier versions, including the elimination of Supervisor Fernando Armenta's name from the argument in favor of Measure D, and several changes to ballot arguments and rebuttals in favor of Measures A and B and opposed to Measure C.
The special election will cost the county about $670,000.
Meanwhile, Valenzuela said new Registrar of Voters Linda Tulett will begin work on May 21. Tulett, 40, was hired last month to replace former registrar Tony Anchundo, who resigned in April 2006 and is currently serving a jail term for misusing county-issued credit cards. She comes to Monterey County from San Francisco, where she has served as deputy director of elections since 2004.
"We're very eagerly awaiting our new registrar," Valenzuela said, adding that the department will then be fully staffed for the first time in about a year and a half. "She said she's looking forward to rolling up her sleeves and doing some election work. She said she's looking forward to learning from me, which I thought was nice. We can definitely use the help."
Valenzuela, a six-year veteran of county elections who was also a candidate for the registrar position, guided the county elections department through two full elections during the past year and called his experience "challenging and rewarding at the same time." He will return to his position as assistant registrar under Tulett.
The June 5 special election will be the first of three elections in a nine-month period. A countywide general election is set for Nov. 6, followed by California's 2008 presidential primary, which was moved to February from June. The county's usual primary will still be held in June 2008.
Voters who wish to cast their ballot by mail can still apply for an absentee ballot until May 29. The last date to register to vote is May 21.
Early voters can also cast their ballots at the county elections department at 1370-B S. Main St. in Salinas. The Elections Department polls are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Author: JIM JOHNSON
Copyright (c) 2007 The Monterey County Herald