Lifetime absentee voting possible
Voters planning to avoid a trip to the polls Nov. 5 by casting an absentee ballot will find an added convenience in the upcoming general election, thanks to a new law providing for permanent absentee registration.
Before this year, California voters wishing to vote absentee were required to re-register as an absentee each election.
But with a new law, voters now only need to register once to become a permanent absentee voter, as long as they do not move or fail to vote in a statewide election.
El Dorado County voter Registrar Michele Mac Intyre said since the new law went into effect, the number of permanent absentee voters who have registered has doubled over previous years when people registered absentee for each election.
“It has gone from 4,000 to 10,000 voters, at least, with more people signing up for permanent absentee every day,” Mac Intyre said.
While figures were not available for the South Shore area, Mac Intyre said she believes permanent absentee ballots will be a trend throughout the county.
“It’s a matter of convenience, really. It gives voters the ability to take the time to look over the issues in the privacy of their own home and make their decisions there,” Mac Intyre said.
The author of the law, Assembly Majority Leader Kevin Shelley, D-San Francisco, said he was prompted to introduce the legislation after gleaning answers from the 2000 Census.
“The U.S. Census Bureau asked nonvoters in the 2000 general election why they chose not to participate,” Shelley said. “More than 1 million (Californians) identified long lines, inconvenient hours or inconvenient polling places as their main reason for not voting.”
Absentee voting eases the burden of many who try to fit a trip to the polls between the daily demands of work and family, Shelley said. Providing voters the flexibility and comfort of voting from home eliminates pressure and stress that often comes with a visit to a crowded polling place, he added.
It also encourages voters to take their time and make informed and thoughtful ballot decisions.
With 25 percent of all votes cast in absentee in California’s 2000 general election, the removal of the yearly re-registering requirement will alleviate much of the burden on county clerks who process absentee voter applications, saving counties a substantial amount of time and money each election.
Shelley’s law took effect Jan. 1. It also increases the penalty for absentee voter fraud from a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, to a $10,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 29. Election officials must receive ballots by 8 p.m. Nov. 5. County polling locations and an online absentee voter application are available at http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections.
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