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County Registrar's Polling Place Lets Voters Get Head Start on Election


It would be another 70 hours before her neighborhood polling place opened.

That explains why Trudy Edwards traveled across town Saturday to cast one of the first ballots in Tuesday's general election.

The Westside resident was standing in a voting booth in Norwalk, carefully checking over her ballot before dropping it into a gray ballot box. A line of other voters waited their turn behind her.

They were among dozens taking advantage of an early bird balloting service that is being offered by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office through Monday.

"We just found out we're going to be out of town on Election Day," said Edwards, a realty agent who was accompanied her husband, Fred. "I'm glad they have this: I came from East Germany, where you didn't have as many rights."

The walk-in voting process uses absentee ballots. Early voters have been welcome at the elections headquarters at 12400 Imperial Highway since Oct. 12, the day those ballots became available, according to clerk Othenia Gage.

Until Saturday, however, only a trickle of voters--about 300 in all--had come in. There are 3,603,562 registered voters in the county.

Officials expect a rush today and Monday when voters realize it's too late to return absentee ballots by mail. Or when they belatedly discover they won't be able to vote Tuesday at their neighborhood polling place.

"I have to go back to Rochester, N.Y., because of a family illness," said John Karle, an engineer who lives in Long Beach. "I was afraid I wouldn't be able to vote until I heard about this."

Whittier resident Beth Camarco decided to vote early because she worried that she might not get home from work in time to cast her ballot Tuesday. She is a Los Angeles Police Department analyst who car-pools with several police officers who may be ordered to work late on Election Day, she said.

Sheriff's Deputies Larry Gregg and Dean Miller--who live about a block apart in Santa Clarita--traveled 50 miles to vote because they have already been scheduled to work Election Day. In fact, they'll be working on the election.

"We'll be out doing things like fixing ballot machines. But we'll be on from about 5:30 in the morning until 8 that night and we won't have time to vote," Gregg said.

Mike Quiroz, a carpenters' union official from Redondo Beach, said he is flying to Philadelphia on union business Monday. "I feel my vote is important because not enough other people bother to vote. You can bet I'll be watching the election results very closely back in Philadelphia," he said.

Pomona residents Michele and Abel Llamas waited in line with their 3-year-old son, Rick, because they recently moved from Whittier and hadn't changed their voting address. "We weren't sure we could get back there on Tuesday," said Abel Llamas, a grocery warehouseman.

Saturday's voters weren't worried that candidates' last-minute advertising blitzes--or smear campaigns--would make them wish they had waited to vote.

"If any last-minute 'bombshells' come out it will be too late," said Jose Blas, a guitar-maker from Montebello.

Roxanne Story, an office manager from Redondo Beach, said: "My mind is made up. I'll toss any campaign material that comes in after this."

The early voters also got to try out new prototype voting booths that the county hopes will some day replace familiar canvas and wood booths. The new ones are made of lightweight plastic.

Registrar-Recorder spokeswoman Grace Romero said walk-in voting will be available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today and Monday at the Norwalk headquarters.

The 479,341 absentee ballots that her office mailed out must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday. If they are not mailed back, they can be turned in at any county polling place on Election Day, she said.

County residents can vote early, but they can't vote often, according to Romero. Cross-checking will allow officials to absolutely catch voters who cast an absentee ballot and a regular one, she said.

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