Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Registrar's Office gears up for election season crunch time

LAKE COUNTY – As local, state and presidential campaigns head into the final month before the November election, it's a busy time at the Registrar of Voters Office.


From now until the Nov. 4 election is certified, it's crunch time, said Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley.


Staff are now dealing with the election year influx of new voter registrations, working on absentee mailings and other preparations that are necessary in a presidential election year.


On Sept. 23 the office received its absentee ballots. With the ballots came the need for extra help. So, the same day the ballots arrived, Fridley's four permanent staffers – two of which are part-time – were joined by six employees who will offer extra help during election season.


Elections staff is currently in the process of preparing thousands of vote-by-mail ballots for absentee voters. Fridley said the first day they can begin mailing absentee ballots is Oct. 6.


In recent years there has been a significant shift among Lake County voters to absentee voting, said Fridley.


Today, 44.3 percent of county voters vote by absentee ballot in Lake County. Among the county's 33,680 registered voters, 18,727 vote at precincts and 14,953 are registered to permanently vote by mail, with 182 of those people either serving in the military or living overseas, Fridley said.


Those voting at precincts have the option to use electronic voting machines, which remain a controversial election-related topic because of security concerns raised by officials including California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.


Lake County has one electronic Hart InterCivic eSlate voting unit per precinct, as required by the Help America Vote Act. In 2006 the county spent more then $567,000 on 50 electronic machines, as Lake County News has reported.


However, Lake County doesn't rely on such machines. Fridley said the county continues primarily to use the paper-based Mark-A-Vote optical scanning system, which has been in use locally since 1983.


Only three counties in California – Lake, Sonoma and Madera – continue to use the Mark-A-Vote, said Fridley.


Last August, Bowen reported that the eSlates were among several electronic voting systems that required additional security. In December 2007 she conditionally reapproved the Hart InterCivic voting machines with a lengthy list of security requirements.


Fridley's office follows an audit procedure to help deal with security concerns. She said votes registered on the machines aren't tallied on electronic equipment. Rather, the voting information is transferred to a printed ballot which is marked onto a Mark-A-Vote ballot.


Looking at voter statistics this year, Fridley noted that voter registrations are up, said Fridley.


“Every presidential year the registration and the turnout is higher,” she said. “Statistically, that's how it plays out.”


The Elections Office currently is receiving about 25 voter registrations a day. Fridley said most of those registrations are new.


That registration rate is about the same as it was for the February primary election, she said.


From Jan. 1 through Sept. 23, there have been approximately 1,326 new registrations. Fridley said that's a good rate for an election year.


Lake County's registration report for September showed it has a 71.86-percent voter registration rate, higher than the state average, according to the California Secretary of State's Office. In all, Lake County has 46,714 people who are eligible to vote.


In partisan statistics, 43.32 percent of Lake County voters are registered Democrats, compared to 30.64 percent for Republicans, 3.19 percent for the American Independent Party and 1.14 percent for the Green Party.


The California Secretary of State reports that the state's voter registration is now at 69.79 percent, slightly behind the 70.91 percent statewide registration recorded in September 2004. While there are 16.1 million voters registered in California, up from 15.6 million in 2004, there also are 1.1 million new eligible voters this year.


The state's partisan voter registrations mirror those in Lake County, with Democrats leading with 43.91 percent, followed by Republicans with 32.32 percent, the American Independent Party with 2.06 percent and the Green Party with 0.72 percent, according to state reports.


Presidential years typically have a higher turnout, which Fridley expects to be the case again this year.


For the 2000 presidential election, 69.9 percent of the county's voters cast a ballot, said Fridley. Of those, 20.2 percent voted absentee and 49.7 percent at precincts.


In November 2004, precinct voting fell to 42.3 percent and absentee voters rose to 32.8 percent, for a 75.2 percent overall turnout, said Fridley.


Those wishing to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election must have their registration postmarked no later than Oct. 20, Bowen's office reported.


Registration forms can be downloaded at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm or picked up at the Registrar of Voters Office, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport; the Department of Motor Vehicles; city clerk's office; public library; or post office.


The Registrar of Voters also will mail a registration form to a potential voter; call them at 263-2372.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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