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Don't Just Talk, Register

August 31, 2003

If recent polls are to be believed, the Oct. 7 recall election is attracting interest even among people who aren't regular voters. New voters may be drawn to the polls in 37 days by the media attention that GOP candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has attracted, as well as the sharp debate over the idea of recall. So far, however, county officials are not reporting any large surge in registrations. Would-be voters who aren't translating their interest into action need to do it before Sept. 22, the deadline for registering.

Here are the basics: A voter must be a U.S. citizen and resident of California and at least 18 years old by Oct. 7. Registration forms are available at state and local government offices and can be downloaded from the secretary of state's Web site at www.ss.ca.gov.

Start by clicking on the "Statewide Special Election" button at the top of the home page. Completed registration forms must be returned by the close of business Sept. 22. People need not vote in every election to remain registered, though they may get a query about whether they've moved after several nonvoting elections. Anyone who has moved must re-register.

An application for an absentee ballot will be printed on the back cover of the sample ballot sent by registrars to voters. Absentee voting starts Sept. 8. The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is Sept. 30. All such ballots must reach county registrars' offices by the close of the polls at 8 p.m. Oct. 7.

The pamphlet also will name the location of the voter's polling place. It is important to check this because some polls will not be where they were last November.

Every voter will have to make two choices: (1) vote yes or no on whether to recall Davis and (2) select a successor from the long candidate list. Everyone can vote for a candidate, no matter how he or she votes on the recall. There also will be two statewide ballot measures, Propositions 53 and 54.

The vote count may take longer than usual because of the length of the 135-candidate ballot and the possibility that creates for election snafus. This includes possible confusion and delay at polling places, as well as potential vote-counting problems. "To say it isn't scary would be a lie," said Shasta County Registrar Ann Reed. Some counties have had to revert to punch-card ballots because new equipment isn't ready.

Nothing in this election is business as usual, and that's the very thing likely to attract disaffected citizens. First, though, they need to make the very small effort needed to register.

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