Mail-in ballots may be key in local elections

Contra Costa County official expects mail-ins to top 60 percent

Thirty years ago -- back when they were called "absentee ballots" -- only about 6 percent of people in Contra Costa County mailed in their votes. Now, more than half mail their ballots, and many of those won't be counted until after the election, which could change the outcome of some close races.

County Clerk Steve Weir said Danville and San Ramon will likely be among the spots with more than 60 percent mailed in.

"They probably have a higher percent of residents that vote by mail," Weir said.

He said people who mail in ballots generally have a higher income, own their own homes, are more educated, older and are more civicly involved -- traits that San Ramon and Danville residents share, to a greater or lesser degree.

State law allows mail-in ballots to be opened seven business days before the election, and Weir's staff has been doing so since Oct. 22.

Because of the multiple-stage process it takes to count and validate all those ballots, he said it's likely some 25 percent won't be tallied until after Tuesday and won't be released before Friday.

"It's a really big deal because they've gone from being a system for people being disabled or out of the area," Weir said. He added that with a smaller turnout, as expected in this election, those mailed-in ballots will have a bigger impact.

He said the ballots come in waves, broken down by date; traditionally, Conservatives mail in their ballots in the first or second wave, while Democrats and undecideds take longer, which could turn the tide as those later ballots are checked, validated and counted.

Weir said the percentage of mail-in ballots has been climbing, from 5.9 percent in 1980 to nearly 10 percent in 1986.

That number jumped to 22 percent in 1994, and by 2002, it was 34 percent, and still -- legally, anyway -- was solely for the disabled and those out of the area on Election Day.

That, Weir said, was when state officials sanctioned what was already going on.

"The state said, 'You know, if anyone wants to vote absentee permanently, it's open to everybody,'" he said.

Weir said despite the climbing number of mail-in votes, state officials aren't planning on consolidating any precincts.

"They want people to have the ease of going to their local polling place," he said.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 2, 2010 at 8:10 am

Hello Neighbors, if you forgot to sign the back of the mail in ballot envelope, it is sitting with Thoursands of others in Martinez. It is not too late to sign it.

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Posted by Alamo Ron
a resident of Alamo
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:14 am

Since the absentee/VBM ballots are already being opened, why not go ahead and count them and publish the results on a day-by-day basis? Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but think a minute:

1. The elections department would be way ahead in counting votes on election day.

2. It wouldn't influence the absentee ballots already mailed.

3. It would probably strongly influence the people who haven't voted yet. This would mean that the percent of people voting would rise dramatically. This is a good thing.

4. Since the cumulative vote totals would be known, major political parties, non-partisan office-seekers, and opponents and proponents of the various propositions would go into a frantic tizzy trying to get people to the polls on election day. This would be fun to watch!

5. And just think of the energy expended if published vote totals were really close for a given race.

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Posted by Catrina 9
a resident of Danville
on Nov 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

Have they finished counting them for this latest election?

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Posted by psmacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Nov 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

Doesn't anyone else think that putting your signature on the outside of any mail, that is then circulated out in the public hemisphere, is a TERRIBLE concept?
The mail goes through many hands. Anyone along the way could quickly "scan" your signature and then have it for all sorts of electronic usages. This is a big security risk....and no one should be forced to do so.
I'd like to find out WHO came up with this idea?
The County Elections Office now uses this system.
My Home Owner's Association uses this system.
They have built it in (as a requirement) to the legal rules and regulations. But IT SHOULD NOT BE DONE AND SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED.
I refuse to put my signature on the outside of ANY mail.....and I like to see other people complain and stop this practice as well.
Why don't you write your Social Security number and Bank Account numbers out there as well!?! And your phone number and email address.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Nov 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

Actually, I believe that it would be better to move back to a process that reserved mail-in voting for actual cases of being absent, and not have "permanent" mail-in voter status. I think the current system creates too many additional opportunities for voter fraud. (Of course, CA's lack of a requirement for identifying yourself before voting at the polls, creates its own voter fraud opportunities.)

I forgot the number, but in news reports seen last night (evening of 11/3), it seemed like there was as many as a million votes still uncounted, around the state, many/most of which were "absentee" ballots that voters dropped off at a polling place on election day. In one or two counties (Fresno and Kern), the "day of" drop-off ballots that are still uncounted, are about 1/3 of the vote total! (Which also begs some questions about how come so many magically appeared...) How do we even know if the "known" election results are even correct, except in the case of large margins?

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