Despite delay, voter
By Kelly Feser Eells
While the courts sort out Monday's
9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling delaying the Oct. 7 California
recall election, California residents 18 and older are warned
that they won't be able to regale the grandkids with stories
about the day they helped "make a little history" if
they haven't registered to vote by Sept. 22.
State law requires that all eligible voters register no later
than 15 days prior to each election day, making Sept. 22 the
deadline for participating in California's first-ever gubernatorial
recall election, to be held Oct. 7, should the recall go forward.
And if you are 18 or older (or will be 18 by Oct. 7); are a United
States citizen; are not in prison or on parole for the conviction
of a felony; and are not, as declared by a court of law, mentally
incompetent, then you are indeed eligible to vote.
While every election is an "important" election - and
no more so than in America, the democratic system's standard
bearer and the only nation ever founded on the premise that democracy
is a right, not a privilege - California Secretary of State Kevin
Shelley underscores the importance of the Statewide Special Election
of Oct. 7.
"The world is watching
how we face the challenge of this election," Shelley writes
in an open letter to the state's approximately 21 million eligible
voters. Shelley's letter, available in both the written and online
versions of the Special Election Official Voter Information Guide
(as well as on his specially-created Web site, www.myvotecounts.org)
concludes by saying that the Special Election of Oct. 7 "could
very well be one of the most important ballots you ever cast."
With the possible exception of
Florida's Katherine Harris, few sitting state secretaries have
enjoyed such "name recognition." It was, in fact, the
voting debacle in Florida that prompted then-State Assembly Majority
Leader Shelley, campaigning at that time for his current post,
and State Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg to co-author the Shelley-Hertzberg
Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2002 (Proposition 41), adopted
by voters in March of that same year.
Proposition 41 provides for state
bonds in the amount of 200 million dollars to allow participating
counties to buy modern voting equipment to replace "outdated
punch card systems."
Still, neither the passage of
Proposition 41 in March of that year, nor the subsequent passage
of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) seven months later,
seemed, in Shelley's view, to significantly "restore voter
confidence and participation."
As he wrote shortly after taking office in January of 2003, "California
has its own electoral crisis, as evidenced by the shockingly
low turnout of some 36 percent of our eligible citizens at the
polls last November. As Secretary of State, I have no higher
priorities than restoring voter confidence in the integrity of
the voting process and increasing the participation of informed
voters. To further these objectives, I appointed a 24-member
Advisory Committee, made up of a diverse, cross-section of Californians,
to assist me in drafting a plan for voting in the 21st Century.
To that end, "My Vote Counts"
- the name of both "a comprehensive road map to restoring
voter confidence" and Shelley's state government-linked
Web site - was born.
Expanding California's vote-by-mail
program and strengthening protections on voter file privacy were
two of the so-called "road map's" primary objectives
during Shelley's first few months in office. Since certifying
the validity of the gubernatorial recall initiative in July,
however, he's become as visible a chief elections officer as
the aforementioned Harris. (On Sept. 4, Shelley visited the UC
Berkeley campus in order to "lend a hand in the get-out-the-vote
drive" and present a "special guest lecture" in
California History professor Kerwin Klein's class; see UC Berkeley
If you are an eligible voter, i.e., meet the above criteria,
have voted in previous elections, etc., but have not yet received
an official Voter Information Guide or sample ballot for the
Special Election of Oct. 7, it's likely you are not registered
to vote - for whatever reason. A change of residence, for example,
requires re-registration. Registering is easy and may be accomplished
in a number of ways:
(1) Call or visit Ventura County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of
Voters Phil Schmit at 800 South Victoria Avenue (county government
building), Ventura, 654-2664
(2) Call the Secretary of State's toll-free "Voter Hot Line"
(3) Register on-line at www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm\
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