October 29, 2004
Will my Absentee Ballot Be Counted?
Someone questioned me as to whether it was safe to vote by any other means than actually going to the polls in person on election day. Because serious people I know and respect vote by absentee ballot, it hadn't really occurred to me to wonder about this. But the comment got me worried enough to do some checking up on how they process the absentee ballots, since we are now signed up as "Permanent Absentee Voters." We did that for the first time this year in order to avoid the lines and inconvenience of having to go to the voting location on a workday. However, I still think there is something exciting about going in person. The kids find it fascinating too. We'll see how we feel in the future, I guess. We can always change back. Plus, we could bring our special ballots to the site if we felt like it, rather than mailing them in as we did this time.
Back to my research. I found at the secretary of state's website the statement:
All valid absentee ballots are counted in every election in California, regardless of the outcome or closeness of any race.
That was comforting sounding.
I read further to see how many other people were trusting that claim. In the county of Santa Clara, CA, for the March 2004 election (all info below is for that time frame) there were 99,051 Permanent Absentee Voters (PAV), which was 12.64% of the voters. The total for the whole state was 2,205,052 people! So I am not alone in my method.
The sad thing is that out of nearly 22 million eligible voters in California, 7 million weren't even registered, never mind actually showing up to vote.
I wondered where in the state absentee voting was the most and least popular. Going by percentage of registered voters who are PAVs, Los Angeles County scored the least with 4.82%. Alpine County got the most with 100%! Must be there are no voting stations there because it's so rural or something? Didn't have time to check that out. For counties with less than 100%, Sonoma was highest, with 37.8% (which was only 87,330 votes).
If we look at the raw number of voters instead of the the percentage, Orange County wins with 244,991 PAVs (17.7% of their registered voters), while San Diego Counry weighs in at 198,504 PAVs (14.85%), and then Sacramento County with 127,405 PAVs (21.47%).
More detailed explanations from http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections, about "The Official Canvass of the Vote:"
Immediately upon the close of polls on election day, the county elections officials and the Secretary of State begin what is called the "semifinal official canvass of the vote" - the tallying of early-returned absentees and the ballots cast in each of the state's 21,796 voting precincts. The semifinal official canvass begins at 8:00 p.m. on election night and continues uninterrupted until the last precinct is counted and reported to the Secretary of State.
The vote tallying process actually begins before election night, with the absentee ballots. Any county that counts its ballots by computer (all 58 do) may begin processing absentees seven (7) days before the election. Having verified the signatures on the return envelopes, elections officials remove the voted ballots and process them through their vote tallying system. Under no circumstances may they tabulate the results until after the close of polls on election day. Most counties continue this processing until they begin their election-day preparations for counting the precinct vote. Mail ballots not counted by that time and all those received on election day, either through the mail or at the precincts, are tabulated during the official canvass of the vote.
My dad always quoted someone as saying, "Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see." I think I've also heard that about "things you read." Certainly the ratio must be a lot worse for "things you read on the internet" and yet, somehow, I'm satisfied.
October 29, 2004 | Permalink
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Interesting post. I have heard a lot of urging, encouraging people to vote via absentee, due to concerns about other voting methods. I need to go fill out my ballot soon myself and put it in the mail...
Posted by: Julie | Nov 1, 2004 6:48:30 AM