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Easier Absentee Voting

October 24, 2002

Voting by mail is easier than ever in California. In the past, you had to be sick, disabled or out of town to get an absentee ballot. Now, any registered voter can cast an absentee ballot.

But there still are deadlines, and the one for applying for an absentee ballot is the close of business Oct. 29 -- next Tuesday. The application must be in the hands of county voting officials by then; postmarks don't count. Ballots are mailed to voters after applications are approved.

The most common way to apply for an absentee ballot is to fill out the form on the back cover of the sample official ballot that all registered voters should have received in the mail by now. Otherwise, a prospective voter can call the local registrar of voters office to request a form or obtain one via the Internet by going to the secretary of state's Web site, www.elections@ss.ca.gov. This site provides addresses and telephone numbers for voting officials in all 58 counties and a direct computer link to each.

The Los Angeles County registrar's Web site provides absentee voting information and a link to a ballot application form. A completed, signed application may be mailed to the registrar's office or sent by fax. In Los Angeles County the fax numbers are (562) 462-2354 and (562) 462-3035; for information, (562) 466-1312 and (800) 481-8683.

One also can sign up as a permanent absentee voter by checking a box on the absentee ballot application form; absentee ballots automatically will be sent so long as he or she votes in every election.

The mailed ballot must reach the registrar's office before the close of the polls at 8 p.m. on election day, Nov. 5. Or, it can be turned in at any polling place in the county before 8 p.m.

One potential problem: hanging chads. Absentee ballots are the punch-card type that requires a little block to be punched out with a pointed object. The voter must be sure to brush or pick off the chads so the machine will read the ballot properly.

Exercise a precious right. There's no excuse not to vote.

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