By Kari Verjil
Early voting for the November 4 election begins this week, and I encourage all San Bernardino County registered voters who have not done so already to consider applying for a vote-by-mail ballot. Here's why:
Voter turnout for this presidential election is expected to be 75 to 80 percent. Not only are we casting ballots for our next president, there are a number of state and local offices at stake as well as twelve state propositions and numerous local initiatives. This will require a larger-than-average ballot.
In addition, we will be using paper ballots rather than electronic voting machines, which were decertified last year by Secretary of State Debra Bowen. The upshot is that the large paper ballot requires more time to be completed at the polls, and when combined with a large voter turnout, the likelihood of long lines at the polls is high.
In addition, the large paper ballots take longer to process. The optical scanners in the Registrar of Voters office count 10,000 to 14,000 ballots per hour; two new machines have been added to speed up the counting, but it still may take two days to before we have the final results.
This is a challenging situation for us all, but there is a partial solution -- the Vote By Mail program. The benefits of voting by mail are several: You avoid long lines at the polls; you can vote in advance from the comfort of your own home; mail-in ballots are the first to be counted and the results released online; and the final results will be reported sooner.
Another advantage of Vote By Mail is that ballot processing begins on Oct. 24, ten days prior to the election, which will speed up the overall counting process.
And please do not fall for the tall tale going around that mail-in ballots are counted only when an election is close. Absolutely false. The Registrar's office is required by law to process every ballot in an expedient manner.
Registered voters who have not applied for a Vote By Mail ballot may do so through Oct. 28. Those who are eligible to vote but are not registered must do so by Oct. 20.
For those voters who would rather cast their vote at their local polling place, please arrive at the polls with a premarked sample ballot in hand to speed up the voting process. Voters who want to cast their ballot early, but not through Vote By Mail, may do so in person at the Registrar of Voters office beginning today.
Additional information and an application for Vote By Mail is available online at http://www.easyvoting.org/.
Kari Verjil is the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters.
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