Nov. 7 voting mainly by mail

December 25, 2019

first_imgFor the first time in state history, more Californians are expected to vote by mail in the November election than actually go to the polls because of the growing popularity of absentee ballots. Once the domain of overseas travelers and homebound seniors, absentee voting has been made easier by changes in state laws, and busy residents have jumped at the chance to save time and still have their voices heard. “As we all get more and more hectic lives, absentee is a very attractive way to vote,” said Tim Hodson, executive director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento. Two decades ago, only 9 percent of general-election voting was done by absentee ballot. By last year’s special election, absentee voting was up to 40percent, and in the June primary nearly 47 percent of votes cast were absentee. “We can expect the November general election will have even higher numbers requesting, and subsequently casting, absentee ballots throughout the state,” Secretary of State Bruce McPherson wrote last week. But experts warn that the trend has made campaigns longer and more expensive, and it has raised concerns about privacy and security. “The old adage used to be: Just campaign in the last 10 days, because nobody paid attention,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a political analyst who publishes the California Target Book analyzing state elections. “They now start well over 30 days out, because they know a lot of voters start at least a month before the election. It’s changed the tactics.” Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said that while the boom in absentee ballots makes it more convenient to vote – and thus may boost turnout – it also has an isolating effect. “In California, we don’t have a lot of civic rituals as it is,” Alexander said. “Voting at your polling place is one of the few civic rituals millions of Californians engage in. I think it would be a mistake to take that experience away.” Advocates say absentee ballots allow voters more time to think through their choices, and that is particularly critical on a ballot such as the one for Nov. 7, calling for many voters to make more than 30 choices. Still, analysts say absentee voting also raises the question of whether someone is pressured by others in the household to vote a certain way when filling out a ballot at home, rather than voting at a polling place where the ballot is truly secret. Voting by mail also depends on the U.S. Postal Service, and McPherson recently expressed concerns about such costs this year. Big ballots In at least 15 counties, McPherson said, the ballot is so big that it will take 63 cents, rather than a standard 39-cent stamp, to mail it. And that has McPherson concerned that voters will use insufficient postage and their ballots will be kicked back to them. McPherson has asked the Postal Service to work with county election officials to ensure that heavier ballots with insufficient postage are delivered on time. The issue is not affecting Los Angeles County because its InkaVote system creates a smaller ballot, said county Registrar Conny McCormack. Los Angeles County also has traditionally had a lower absentee-voting level than other counties. In the June primary, 30 percent of L.A. County voters mailed in their votes, compared with more than 55 percent in Contra Costa and Orange counties. A permanent thing Those counties also have encouraged residents to sign up as permanent absentee voters so they are automatically mailed absentee ballots every election. “Some counties have done that, and they believe it makes their processing easier,” McCormack said. “That wouldn’t be the case here. “If we had 30 or 40 percent of our voters (permanent) absentee that would mean we’d be mailing out 2 million ballots. And getting 2 million ballots ready to mail out by Election Day would be extremely difficult. “If we had to, we would do it, but it’s very expensive.” “And you have to set up polling places anyway. So it really becomes running two elections.” Some experts trace the first big acknowledgment of the value of absentee voting to the 1982 governor’s race between George Deukmejian and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. During that battle, some media outlets used exit polls and early returns to declare Bradley the winner Election Day. But Republicans had made a big push on absentee ballots that year and the final results gave the win to Deukmejian. So now election campaigns must essentially run two campaigns. Campaign managers know they now need to reach voters earlier with advertising while also continuing the traditional last-minute blitz for the smaller universe of voters who turn out on Election Day. And political consultant Bill Carrick said many absentee voters also wait until the last minute to cast their ballots. “It drives the campaigns crazy, because they know people have gotten the ballot and they haven’t voted,” said Carrick, who is working with the Phil Angelides gubernatorial campaign. “Is that ballot filled out, sitting in an outbox for three weeks, while people wait to send it at the last minute? Or is that ballot unfilled out and the voter truly undecided? Those are the kinds of questions that give campaign managers gray hair and high blood pressure.” (916) 446-6723 How to vote Early voting: Touch-screen voting in Los Angeles County will run Oct. 25 through Nov. 3 at more than a dozen sites. Locally, touch-screen locations are open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Mid-Valley Library, 16244 Nordhoff St., North Hills, or the North County Fire Training Center, 42110 6th St. West, Lancaster. For a complete list of locations, see Absentee: A request for an absentee ballot must be received by an election official no later than Oct. 31 for the Nov. 7 election. Absentee ballots can be requested online at or by writing or visiting the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, 12400 Imperial Highway, Room 3002, Norwalk. For more information, call (562) 466-1323 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Source: Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office Absentee ballot use in California General elections, Ballots cast, Percentage absentee 1962 5.9 million 2.6 1970 6.6 million 3.1 1980 8.8 million 6.3 1990 7.9 million 18.4 2000 11.1 million 24.5 2005* 8 million 40 *Special statewide election Source: California Secretary of State’s Office160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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