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Voting by mail becoming the norm
The culture of voting is changing — and the ballot box is looking conspicuously like a mailbox.
Colusa County Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Moran anticipates close to 80 percent of the 7,765 registered voters will cast a vote in the general election, and more than half of them have requested mail-in ballots.
"Fifty-three percent have received a vote-by-mail ballot and half of those have already turned them in," Moran said Friday morning.
Statewide, 50.2 percent of all voters have received mail-in ballots, and as of Thursday morning, 27 percent of those had been turned in, according to numbers being tracked by the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials.
Moran said her office has already started processing the mail-in ballots it has received, and the county will have a good solid number on early election returns only minutes after the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
"We are allowed by law to begin processing them up to seven days ahead of the election," said Moran, adding the count has started. "We don't know what the totals are, we just run them through the machines."
Nor does it mean, in any manner, that the local offices will be decided.
She expects a large number of mail-in ballots will be dropped off at polling places on Tuesday as well, something that has happened in increased numbers in recent elections, and those will not be counted until Wednesday.
"I am expecting a big turnout because we have new registrants, we have a lot of activity and there has been a lot of interest in this election," Moran said.
"Of course, the big thing is the presidential election," she added. "Some people who don't vote every time vote for president, and there are some who don't vote in the primary who will vote in the general election."
Moran said add the state propositions and all the local races, she is hoping a countywide turnout in the high 70 percentile.
That means a lot of votes to count, and with the climbing number of mail-in ballots being dropped off at polling locations, the final turnout will be delayed.
The tighter the races, the less likely a decision will be known until Wednesday or possibly Thursday, Moran said.
And that is quite a change from a decade or so ago.
"At one time, you had to have a reason to vote absentee. ... And now anyone can request an absentee, and it is not even called that anymore. It is called vote-by-mail," Moran said.
In fact, a lot of counties, including Colusa, are encouraging voting by mail. It is viewed as being more convenient for the voters, and fits a lifestyle in which more and more voters in the state are working outside of their resident county and cannot always get to a polling location on election day, Moran said.
Colusa County has four precincts that are mail-in only, remote locations like Stonyford where the number of registered voters is below 250.
Military personnel and residents living overseas, although not high numbers in Colusa County, also fall into the mail-in number, and there is an increasing number of residents who are listed as permanent mail-in voters.
But that biggest group are those voters asking for a mail-in ballot for this specific election, Moran said.
Colusa County is also offering a drive-by, drop-off site on Jay Street next to the courthouse. It will be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesday.
"You don't even have to get out of your car," Moran said.