Voting Experts Say Californians Should Make Sure Their November 8 Votes Are Counted
PASADENA, Calif.—The November 8 special election will allow California voters to decide on a number of initiatives rather than elect new people to statewide offices. But even though votes for a candidate will not be counted this time, the possibility of "lost" votes still exists, says an authority on voting at the California Institute of Technology.
"The experiences of recent elections have shown us all that we should continue expending some effort to make sure our votes count," says Michael Alvarez, a professor of political science at Caltech and codirector of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project. The VTP researchers determined after the 2000 presidential election that up to six million votes had been lost.
Alvarez and his colleagues, who have devised seven steps for voters to take to ensure that their votes are counted, say these steps will be effective for the upcoming initiative election.
The announcement of the seven steps is being made as part of the ongoing voting project, which was initiated in December 2000 by Caltech president David Baltimore and former MIT president Charles Vest following the election debacle the previous month. The Caltech-MIT group, composed of both political scientists and engineers, is charged with evaluating the current state of reliability and uniformity of U.S. voting systems, establishing uniform attributes and quantitative guidelines for performance and reliability of voting systems, and proposing specific uniform guidelines and requirements for reliable voting systems.
The seven steps the group recommends are as follows:
1. Check that you are correctly registered to vote if you have recently moved, changed your name, or recently have filled out a voter registration form. If you are unable to check this on the Internet, call your local election office to make sure you are registered, that you are on your precinct's list of registered voters, and whether you need to bring a form of identification with you in order to vote. If you have any doubt, you should call as soon as possible. The telephone number for your local election office is available from directory assistance.
2. If for any reason there is a chance you cannot get to your local polling place on November 8, request an absentee ballot today or check with your county election official to see if early voting is being offered in your area.
3. Check your ballot. If you vote by mail, make sure to check for errors on your ballot before putting it into the envelope. Also, make certain you provide all required information, (especially your signature) on the envelope, and return your ballot early enough to ensure that your county election official receives it before polls close at 8 p.m. on November 8. You can return it by mailing it to your county election official, by dropping it off at any polling place or the county election office on election day, or by authorizing a legally allowed third person to return it for you.
4. Get a sample ballot from your local elections office if one hasn't been mailed to you, read it carefully, and bring it with you to vote. If you have received a sample ballot in the mail, this is a good time to make sure that your name and address are correct and that you know the location of your polling place. Your sample ballot contains a wealth of information and also provides a convenient way to double-check your registration information as well as consider your choices on the initiatives, which are complicated and require some study. You can mark your choices in your sample ballot and use it for reference when voting.
5. If your name does not appear on the list of registered voters at your polling place, and you believe you are registered to vote and are in the right precinct, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot.
6. Get informed. Read your voter information booklet and sample ballot. If you did not receive one or both, contact your election office immediately, as this might indicate a problem with your registration status.
7. Contact your election office with questions or for help. If you have easy Internet access, you can find the telephone number of your county election office at http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections_d.htm. Or you can call the California Secretary of State's office at 1-800-345-VOTE for information on how to contact your county election office.
Written by Robert Tindol