The deadline for Santa Barbara residents to register to vote in the upcoming June election is coming up, and county officials are already noticing a high number of people requesting absentee ballots.
On June 6, registered voters will cast their ballots in the primary election of the November 2006 California gubernatorial race. Residents in Santa Barbara will also vote on a variety of local propositions, including one to split the northern and southern parts of the county, and for local officials such as the Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner and the District Attorney. Santa Barbara County Elections Division Manager Billie Alvarez said there are over 180,000 registered voters in Santa Barbara County, 87,000 of which are registered to vote by absentee ballot. Of the absentee voters, 75,000 are permanent absentee voters who receive a ballot by mail for every election.
The deadline to register for the primary election is May 22, and voters can obtain an absentee ballot by mailing in the form on the back of sample ballot or by going to the County Clerk’s office in downtown Santa Barbara. Applications for the absentee ballot must be returned to the Santa Barbara County Registrar of Voters by mail or in person by May 30.
Alvarez said absentee voters tend to participate more in local elections than people who choose to vote at polling places.
“If you compare statistics of people historically, 80 percent of absentee voters return their ballots by the deadline, which is higher than voter turnout normally,” Alvarez said. “This has resulted in a small but noticeable increase in voter participation overall.”
Alvarez said there has been a steady increase in absentee voting ever since a law was passed in 2002 that allows people to vote with absentee ballots even if they do not have medical or travel-related reasons for doing so.
“Ten years ago, in the presidential election there were 35,000 absentee voters in the county,” Alvarez said. “If you look at the last statewide special election in November, there were 72,000 absentee voters – over 50 percent of votes were by absentee ballot.”
Campus groups have been preparing for the upcoming election by registering voters and working on various candidates’ campaigns. Campus Democrats President Ben Sheldon-Tarzynski, a third-year political science major, said his organization is currently working to register and inform voters for the upcoming election.
“We are doing a precinct walk in I.V. next Saturday, May 20 to register people to vote,” Sheldon-Tarzynski said. “We registered 5,000 people to vote in fall 2005 and actually just won an award for registering [more] Democrats for the 2005 election than any other school in the state.”
College Republicans Vice-Chairman Jerad Ferguson, a second-year political science major, said the College Republicans are working closely with Republican candidates for the primary election. He said the group is trying to educate student voters about the major issues in the election by tabling and passing out fliers with information on the candidates.
“At the moment, we don’t have any plans [for voter registration], but we’ve been working closely with the candidates,” Ferguson said. “It’s important to get the candidates you want on the ballot for the November election and to vote on the ballot measures, as well.”
Freshman English major Dawn Marie Howell said she thinks students have no reason not to vote, since it is so easy to vote with an absentee ballot.
“We really don’t have an excuse not to vote when there is absentee balloting,” Howell said. “People complain about getting out to the polls and waiting, but with this opportunity they don’t have that excuse.”
Nima Kamali, a third-year global studies major, said she plans to vote from home with an absentee ballot in the upcoming June election.
“I plan to vote absentee because it is more convenient and is basically the same process,” Kamali said. “It’s more chill; I can take time to think carefully about my vote and do it on my own time.”