October 10, 2008 - Vote early; vote by mail
Paper: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)
Title: Vote early; vote by mail
Date: October 10, 2008
Monday was Election Day, in a very real sense. State officials formally opened the gates, allowing vote-by-mail voters to start turning in advance ballots for this, one of the country's most historic presidential elections.
Unprecedented numbers of people have registered to vote by mail, with some counties reporting as many as three-quarters of the local electorate opting for this method of voting. Many counties are offering an increasing number of drop-off locations, as well -- from city clerks' offices to county buildings.
Kern County is not as heavily invested in vote-by-mail as some counties around the state, but the gap is closing.
Permanent vote-by-mail voters , along with people assigned to precincts that are exclusively vote-by-mail, now exceed 100,000. On Monday the total reached 109,621 -- and that was before another 2,500 new and one-time vote-by-mail requests were sent out mid-week.
Kern County vote-by-mail ballot requests have more than doubled in just two years. Election officials distributed 49,515 vote-by-mail ballots in June 2006.
That mirrors statewide trends over the last decade. A 2001 law made it possible for any Californian to register as permanently voting by mail, meaning their ballots are automatically mailed to them every election.
Turnout numbers are expected to swell across the state, with county registrars pushing mail-in balloting like never before. Voting by mail allows local election officials to start processing ballots more efficiently and much earlier, decreasing the volume of activity at polling precincts. Mailed-in ballots are typically the first votes that appear on the Kern County election department's Web site after polls close on election night.
In January, county election workers mailed out 110,797 vote-by-mail ballots -- roughly double the number of vote-by-mail ballots distributed prior to the March 2004 primary election (55,862) and close to three times the number mailed out prior to the March 2000 primary (40,007).
Vote-by-mail ballots include military, overseas and mail-only precincts, among other classifications, but the vast majority are permanent ballots, delivered to voters who simply see it as a more convenient way of performing their civic duty.
More than 40 percent of registered voters in California have signed up to vote by mail, according to a recent statewide survey. The numbers included more than half of voters in 15 of 38 reporting counties.
Voters have until Oct. 28 to request a vote by mail ballot, but the sooner you do so, the better. If you want your vote to count, it must be in the elections department -- not merely placed in the mail -- when the polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. Just to make sure it's received on time, mail your completed ballots several days in advance.
Section: Editorial Page
Record Number: 420657321
Copyright, 2008, The Bakersfield Californian