El Dorado County offers absentee voters a permanent status
El Dorado County’s long haul truckers and military personnel no longer need to remember to ask for absentee ballots.
Effective Jan. 1, any voter in the county may ask for permanent absentee voter status and the county will send them a ballot every year, 29 days before elections in which they can vote.
Previously, only people with physical handicaps or their caregivers could request permanent absentee status.
The number of absentee voters has grown in the last 20 years from a few thousand to nearly 25,000 out of El Dorado County’s 89,591 voters, according to Michele MacIntyre, registrar of voters.
“We’ve been told by people that they’re very busy, and rather than go to the polls and wait in line, they take advantage of the absentee ballot. But they still have to remember to request one every year,” she said.
Now people who work out of town or on 24-hour shifts can vote from home. The change in the Election Code makes voting more convenient, but will not preclude people from voting at the polls. Absentee voters who want to use the polls can turn in their mailed ballots and get new ones, and if the absentee ballot is lost they can use a provisional ballot.
Voters maintain permanent absentee status as long as they wish, but will lose that status if they fail to return a ballot in either a primary or general election. Staying in touch with the registrar is still required, whether a person votes from within the county or from the road.
“If you have changed residence address, or party affiliation, or name, then you are required by law to reregister with the Elections Department,” MacIntyre said.
Absentee voting also rules out pregnant chads or other misreads by voting machines. El Dorado County’s Datavote machines were not decertified, while Shasta and Los Angeles counties, along with seven others in the state, had their voting systems decertified last year following a judge’s order stemming from an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit.
“The people in this county seem to be very comfortable with this system. It’s held up under recounts and is very reliable,” said MacIntyre, adding El Dorado cleans its voting machines after every election.
“The problem is for all the counties in the state, not just us, that a flurry of new technologies will come out,” MacIntyre said.
The county wants to wait for the right technologies and the right venue for funding.
People wanting permanent absentee status must notify the registrar in writing. Letters may be sent to Elections Department, P. O. Box 678001, Placerville, CA 95667-8001. Basin voters with questions may call the registrar at (530) 573-3408.
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