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Voting by mail provides alternative for students

By Naheed Rajwani and Katherine Hafner

Oct. 24, 2012 12:55 a.m.

With Election Day less than two weeks away, students from outside the Los Angeles area who cannot go to the polling booths are looking for alternative ways to cast their vote.

Students who registered to vote using a local address can cast their ballot at a polling station on the Hill, but those from outside Los Angeles County can only submit their ballot by mail.

To receive a vote-by-mail ballot, voters must mail or fax a request to their home county’s election office, said Elizabeth Knox, a spokeswoman for the county clerk’s office. The deadline to register for an absentee, or vote-by-mail, ballot is Oct. 30 in California.

Los Angeles County elections officials started mailing ballots to voters about two weeks ago, Knox said.

After calling her county’s registration office and learning her ballot likely got lost in the mail, first-year English student Maddie Cook said she had to fill out another vote-by-mail form.

Cook, who is from Virginia, didn’t change her address after moving into her dorm last month because she wanted to cast her ballot in Virginia since it is a “swing state” that typically does not favor one political party in the general election.

Representatives from the Office of Residential Life and Bruin Vote, a campaign sponsored by the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s external vice president’s office, have been posting fliers to remind students to request an absentee ballot and to vote in general, said Rodrigo Jimenez, co-director of the effort and fourth-year political science student.

“We put out a good education effort on the Hill,” he said. “We stressed that it is much easier to use a (local) address and not vote by mail, but whatever people wanted we (helped) them.”

Absentee ballots are counted in every election in California, regardless of the outcome or closeness of the race, according to Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s website.

Cook, who voted in this year’s primary in June, said she always assumed she would vote in Virginia.

“Even though I’m 3,000 miles away, it’s nice to be able to vote in my state,” she said.

Other students, such as fourth-year economics student David Self, said they still need to look into the process of registering for an absentee ballot. Self is from Orange County but said he still plans to vote by mail instead of going home for Election Day.

As of Oct. 23, there were about 1,082,581 permanent mail-in voters in Los Angeles County, according to the county registrar website.

Voters have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to return their ballot either by mail or at a polling station within their county, Knox said.

“It would have been fun to go to the ballot box, but it’s still good to vote,” Cook said.

Regardless, Cook said she will continue checking her mailbox constantly until her ballot arrives.

Contributing reports by Nikki Somani, Bruin contributor.

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Naheed Rajwani
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