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Absentee voting gains popularity

Absentee voting is quickly becoming the norm when it comes to California and Calaveras County voters.

In Calaveras County as of Friday there were 8,808 absentee voter ballots sent out and 6,513 turned in. “I think it´s on the rise,” said Debbie Smith, county elections coordinator.

Smith attributes the rise to the state offering permanent absentee voter status to any registered voter. The number of voters using absentee ballots has increased by 1,939,927 since 1962, from 156,167 to 2,096,094 in 2002, according to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley´s office.

Calaveras County has 5,000 permanent absentee voters on file and many more requested permanent status through this special election, Smith said. That´s something to tabulate after the election, she said.

Permanent absentee voters automatically receive an absentee ballot for each election and retain their status as long as they vote in all statewide primary and general elections.

Voters voting absentee should get their ballots in as soon as possible, Smith said. “If the ballots are not returned either here or at their polling place by 8 p.m. on Oct. 7, they will not be counted. Post marks do not count,” Smith said.

Absentee voting began on Sept. 8. The deadline to apply for an absentee voter ballot for the Oct. 7 special election was Sept. 30.

An important and daunting task, due to the abbreviated election schedule, is ensuring that men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have the opportunity to vote, a press release from Shelley´s office said.

“I have issued a directive allowing unprecedented receipt of ballots via fax to ensure that in the few days remaining before Oct. 7, every effort is made to accept ballots from military and overseas voters,” Shelley said.

Once an absentee ballot is received, signatures on the return envelope will be compared to the signatures on the voter´s registration card to determine voter legitimacy, Shelley´s office said.

To preserve privacy the ballot is separated from the envelope and becomes as anonymous and secret as any other ballot.

To be eligible to register to vote one must be a United States Citizen, be 18 years of age on or before the day of the election, be a resident of California and not be in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com