Voting Isn’t Just for Election Day Anymore

By Judith Scherr
Friday September 29, 2006

Traditionally, on the first Tuesday in November on even-numbered years, voters head to the polls. 

But with the increasing popularity  

of absentee and early voting, that has changed. 

According to Acting Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald, 42 percent of the voters in Alameda County are registered as permanent absentee voters and in the June election more than 50 percent of the county voters cast their votes absentee.  

In Berkeley, about 40 percent of the voters are registered as permanent absentee voters. 

“The county has been vigorously promoting absentee voting for the last five years,” said Guy Ashley, spokesperson for the county registrar’s office. 

In addition to voting absentee—which one can do for the upcoming election beginning Oct. 9—the county sets up early voting stations. These stations have been less successful than absentee voting in attracting voters, Macdonald said. 

In June, only about 1,500 people voted at these polls, located at city halls, and so the county is trying to set up additional sites for future elections.  

“The whole idea is getting as many people to vote as possible,” Macdonald said. 

In Berkeley, early voting sites are clustered in the downtown-Telegraph area: 

• Oct. 16 to Nov. 7, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., City Clerk Office, 2180 Milvia St. 

• Sat., Oct. 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Berkeley Main Library Community Room. 

• Wed., Oct. 18, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Center for Independent Living, 2539 Telegraph Ave. 

• Thurs., Nov. 1, Nov. 2, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ASUC Student Union Building, on UC Berkeley campus. 

Both Councilmembers Max Anderson and Darryl Moore said they have concerns about where the early voting is slated to take place. 

“We should increase the turnout in all the districts in the city,” said Anderson, who represents South Berkeley. 

Similarly, Moore, who represents southwest Berkeley, said he would have liked the county to find early voting locations in that quadrant of the city. 

Asked why the early voting stations were not spread around the city, Macdonald responded: “There’s no science to doing this. If somebody has a suggestion for additional sites, it’s not too late,” he said. 

District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington said his campaign is encouraging people to vote early on campus and to vote by mail. His campaign is trying to get people not to call the process “absentee” voting, which Worthington said makes people think that one has to be out-of-town to vote by mail. 

“Vote-by-mail is more cost-effective,” Worthington said, “and there’s a clean paper trail.” 

Worthington’s challenger George Beier declined to address the subject, saying it is proprietary campaign information.  

While early voting is an opportunity to increase the vote, it can be challenging for some. 

“We’re facing the dilemma of getting our materials out,” said Sherry Smith, former president of the Berkeley-Albany-Emeryville chapter of the League of Women Voters.  

To vote in the Nov. 7 election, one must register by 5 p.m. Oct. 23. Oct. 31 is the last day to request absentee ballots. To request an absentee ballot online, go to www. acgov.org/rov/absentee.pdf or write to PO Box 24224, Oakland CA 94623, stating the address to which the ballot must be mailed and include a signature. Requests can be faxed to 272-6982.