If you don’t believe that Vote by Mail is all the rage with the presidential primary around the corner, just check out today’s New York Times:
In California, the biggest prize on Feb. 5, state election officials estimate that more than half of voters may vote by mail, which has forced campaigns to adjust their strategies and has some political observers worried that people may make hasty choices they may later regret.
Mail ballots went out last week, and some campaigns have been stepping up efforts to reach voters before they open the mailbox.
Vote by Mail is a now a force that can not be ignored in California, and it’s not too late for you to join the ranks. More than 39 percent of San Mateo County’s registered voters have signed up to Vote by Mail permanently – 139,274 voters as of today.
“‘I think it is a reflection of people’s busy lives and the complications of child care, weather and traffic as well as the complexity of our ballots,” Secretary of State Debra Bowen told the Times. “‘Very often, there will be 10 or 15 initiatives that are so complicated, so people will sit at the kitchen table and if they get stuck on something, they can step away or they can call somebody.”‘
We wholeheartedly agree.
So why not do it? Sign up on a permanent basis or as a one-time stint for this election only. Avoid what will surely promise to be crowds at the polls on Feb. 5, given the record turnouts Iowa and New Hampshire. Make your life simpler.
We even have a retort for naysayers who worry you will cast your vote early and end up regretting it as election dynamics change: no problem!
You can hang on to your Vote by Mail ballot until Election Day if you want as much time as possible to make your decision. It just needs to be in our hands by 8 p.m. A postmark won’t cut it, so you can drop it off at any polling place in the county or the Elections Office at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo or 555 County Center in Redwood City.
Applications to Vote by Mail via fax, mail or online must be received by Jan. 29, and there a handful of simple ways to get it done:
· Complete the application on the back cover of your Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet and drop it in the mail.
· Complete our online application form on our Web site.
· Download and print a Vote by Mail application in PDF format from our Web site, fill it out and mail or fax it back to us. There is a form for permanent Vote by Mail status, and a form for a one-time Vote by Mail ballot for this election only.
Cake! Which reminds us. It’s also a piece of cake to use the Track & Confirm feature on our on Web site to check if your voted mail ballot was received by the Elections Office.
Studies on the value of Vote by Mail continue to proliferate, and we’ll draw your attention to this report released in January by Common Cause, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan nonprofit that promotes accountability and honesty in government.
Common Cause believes that Vote by Mail “provides voters with plenty of time to cast ballots and avoid long lines while also providing election officials with ample time to count and process ballots. Because VBM uses paper ballots, it avoids the many concerns about electronic voting machines…”
The report, which also takes a hard look at Vote by Mail’s potential shortcomings, makes several recommendations for optimal practices. We’re happy to say that we’re already doing several of them, including requiring voters to sign ballot envelopes and comparing those signatures to the signatures on registration files.
In the 2006 primary, according to the Secretary of State, nearly 47 percent of Californians chose to Vote by Mail. That percentage, as the Times article surmises, will likely be even higher on Feb. 5.
“Citizens are in effect voting with their feet by flocking to Vote by Mail programs when given the opportunity,” the report says. “Voting by mail can improve turnout, reduce Election Day problems, and provide for a more deliberative, accurate, and accessible election if implemented correctly.”