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Vote 08: Absentee votes could delay tally

January 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
In California, absentee ballots are always the first to come in. However, election officials say there is an unusually large number of people asking for absentee ballots.Officials at the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Office are gearing up for what will likely be a very long election night.

The number of absentee ballots is expected to be a huge factor in the upcoming Presidential election and it could delay the results.

Workers are busy, trying to keep pace with the incoming requests for absentee ballots. Already more than 550,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been issued in L.A. County.

Currently, about 4 million of California's 15.5 million registered voters are classified as "permanent absentee." That could grow by 4 million as more people sign up.

In L.A. County, absentee voters account for about 25 percent of the total ballots cast, but statewide experts believe more than half of all ballots cast in this up coming primary will be done so my mail. That's more than ever in California.

Adding to the challenge, experts say many voters are expected to be late deciders due to the close race for both the Democratic and Republican nomination. This could lead to an avalanche of ballots at the last minute, possibly delaying the final tally.

Voters have until Jan. 29 to request an absentee ballot. All mail-in ballots must be received by county election officials by 8 p.m. Feb. 5 in order for them to count.

L.A. officials say they're ready for a potential backlog of ballots.

"I think it's a whole separate set of effort and work that goes into absentee ballots compared to polling place ballot," said one official. "And especially this election, where we're doing absentee ballots by precinct instead of just by a larger ballot group size. So, it will be more work, more people, more time, more effort."

L.A. County officials say in they are prepared for high voter turnout, both in absentee ballots and at the polls. They expect the high number of mail-in ballots to slow the counting process.


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