In today's hectic lifestyle, there always seems to be more and more things to do and not enough time to do them. The daily demands of careers, children's activities and home life make even finding time to vote a challenge for many of the nation's voters.
As we approach the November 2008 General Election, the
Vote by Mail (VBM), formally known as absentee voting, was once restricted to those who were unable to vote at a poll due to hardship. In the late 1970s, VBM was offered to all voters regardless of circumstance. All voters can now vote at their leisure, at home and with ample time to make their selections. VBM also helps election officials throughout the state to minimize waiting time at the polls as well as report results as soon as the polls close.
The Registrar of Voters office also benefits when voters choose to vote by mail. Returned ballots are processed as they arrive and are held until Election Day when they are counted. Being able to process these ballots before Election Day reduces the number of ballots that must be counted after the polls close. Generally, election results that are reported just after the polls close are ballots that have been voted by mail.
Voters can apply to vote by mail for a specific election or ask to become a permanent mail ballot voter. Permanent mail ballot voters are those who have instructed the Registrar of Voters to automatically mail them a ballot for any election in which they are eligible to vote. In either case, these voters receive a ballot by mail and have until Election Day to return their ballot. The permanent mail ballot voters are the first to receive their ballots. The Registrar of Voters spends the early days of the election cycle preparing a large mailing to these voters. Ballots are mailed 29 days before the election in accordance with the Elections Code. After the first large mailing, ballots are mailed to voters requesting a VBM ballot for the current election.
Given the advantages of the VBM program, the Registrar of Voters is continually working to add voters to the permanent VBM rolls. Shortly after the June 2008 election, the Registrar of Voters sent a mailer to more than 900,000 voters asking them if they would like to become permanent mail ballot voters. This mailing served two purposes: first, voters were added to the permanent VBM file; and, second, the Registrar of Voters was able to update its voter address file prior to the November General election. Undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mailpieces were returned to the Registrar of Voters. In accordance with election law, those voters who had a change of address were sent a new voter registration card asking them to register at their new address. These voters were also given the opportunity to become permanent mail ballot voters. Had these addresses not been updated, potential voters may have not been able to exercise the franchise.
No VBM program can succeed without the help and support of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The USPS is a willing and valuable partner to the VBM program. As the number of voters casting ballots by mail has increased throughout the country, the USPS has developed programs and processes to accommodate the mailing of these election materials. The USPS has determined ballots can be mailed at non-profit rates, which makes the mailing of ballots financially attractive to election officials. Other enhancements included a special election logo to heighten visibility, special tags that identified political mail and the use of express mail to
There is one other segment of the population that relies heavily on the VBM program, our military voters.
Bob Wilson, CMDSM, joined the