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Voters Must Pay a Price for Using Absentee Ballot

November 03, 1998|PATT MORRISON

The final tally is in, and the figures show . . . mail-in absentee voter, 32 cents, polling-place voter, free.

Voting by absentee ballot--once considered the practice of voters headed off on round-the-world cruises--is a different and more democratic creature nowadays. The secretary of state's office reckons that a record 2 million California voters requested absentee ballots for today's election. The compound demands of jobs, school, day care, chores, have made absentee voting attractive, convenient--all the alluring adjectives.

All except one: free.

Unless the voter can drop off the absentee ballot at the county registrar's or at the polling place on election day, mailing in an absentee ballot requires a postage stamp.

Now, a first-class stamp is a small price to pay for voting--one-tenth the cost of a large latte--but it is a price, and voting is supposed to be free.

Absentee voting could help boost interest and turnout. There is no real evidence that having to pay for a 32-cent stamp is a deterrent. But pretty soon stamps will be 33 cents, then 45, and 50 . . . and one day soon everyone will vote by computer.

If you can afford a computer.


Ursine update With the approaching winter, the "urban bears" of Eureka, displaced by human sprawl, are fattening up with startling but so far nonlethal results.

Residents are taking precautions after California black bears raided garbage cans and dog dishes and harvested late fruit from trees. One woman has been sealing the family garbage cans with bungee cords after three visits by a bear so huge that, said Patty Dutton, "it looked like a Volkswagen pulling out of my driveway." A man found a bear in his garage, sitting atop his car and pawing through the trash like a kid rummaging through Halloween candy.

Two other black bears, captive for nearly 20 years in a dingy concrete cage in Roseville, now have a spacious new home, thanks to 16-year-old Justin Barker, who raised $25,000 himself and led the campaign for $220,000 more.

Roseville was closing its old zoo but could find no takers for Brutus and Ursula, until the Elk Grove teenager raised the money to open a true habitat exhibit at the Folsom Zoo. The bears have rocks and trees to climb, sandy-floored dens to hide in, a swimming pool, and fruit and fish and even road kill on the menu.

On the day the bears were transferred, the young hero of the hour went to watch. "I came out here early this morning," he said, "and I looked at them and I cried."


The Most Voters

Here are the 10 California counties with the most registered voters as of Oct. 5, the registration deadline for today's general election:


REGISTERED % % COUNTY VOTERS DEMOCRATS REPUBLICANS Los Angeles 3,854,817 53.96% 29.01% San Diego 1,324,482 36.45% 42.13% Orange 1,173,732 32.09% 50.86% Santa Clara 726,410 46.78% 32.77% Alameda 714,134 58.14% 21.24% San Bernardino 664,022 43.31% 41.18% Sacramento 600,499 47.87% 36.28% Riverside 597,078 38.90% 46.06% Contra Costa 485,910 49.31% 33.65% San Francisco 448,888 58.88% 14.67% Statewide 14,969,185 46.68% 35.51%


Source: California Secretary of State

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times


When "no" means "oh-oh": In the way of things political, and especially with ballot propositions, the rule that "by its endorsements shall ye know it" carries a lot of weight with undecided voters.

And so the Sierra Club--among the few groups supporting Proposition 9, the utility measure--wants its name restored to the "yes" side of the ledger. In a paid "no-on-Prop. 9" endorsement on a slate mailer sent to thousands of San Francisco voters by the city's Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club, the Sierra Club was listed as opposing the measure.

The Sierra Club demanded a correction mailer sent to the same households, or full-page ads in the city's daily papers before today's election. The best it got was a mea culpa apology that the RFK club "in a rush to produce our slate card" confused the matter, and a corrective press release that evidently got printed nowhere before election day.


One-offs: Fifty years after the landmark Kinsey study on the sexual habits of the human male, a San Francisco State University conference Friday will assess changes in attitude and conduct over those five decades . . . Conservationists are girding for battle against a mining company plan to dig for clay near Ojai on claims in the remote Sespe Wilderness Area, whose federal protections are trumped by a 126-year-old mining law that could allow the firm to take private ownership of 460 acres of claims at the 1873 bargain price of $2.50 per acre . . . Bail bondsmen complain that it's illegal, but a credit card has become a get-out-of-jail card in Santa Clara County, where an interactive kiosk allows some suspects to post bail of under $5,000 by ATM.


"It's not the dogs . . . It's the one that trained them to do it."

--Cody Fox, an 11-year-old Red Bluff boy who lost an arm when 19 dogs leaped through a hole in a fence and attacked him. Detectives who found a human-shaped dummy covered with bites believe the dogs were trained to attack. Cody says he doesn't fear dogs--especially not his own, Buddy. Quoted in the Record Searchlight of Redding.

California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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