Duty bound

On voting in Butte County’s new all-mail election

A week after the primary ballots ostensibly were mailed out, I called the Butte County Clerk-Recorder’s Office to report that mine hadn’t arrived. As of this newspaper’s press time, I’m still waiting.

I’m one of those voters with “no party preference” (aka “decline to state”). As such, I’d get a nonpartisan ballot, meaning it wouldn’t include those running for president. However, certain parties, including the Democratic Party, allow folks like me to request a ballot with their candidates. And that’s exactly what I did on Jan. 12, the day I dropped off a postcard addressed to the Butte County Elections Office.

I know the precise date because I snapped a picture of the card just before dropping it into the mail slot at the post office on Vallombrosa Avenue. Over my many years of working for newspapers, when it comes to the government, I’ve learned to document even the most mundane of things.

So, what’s the problem?

That’s what I inquired about when I rang the county. The person who answered my call was polite, but didn’t exactly illuminate a detailed explanation of how to proceed. In short, I was told to sit tight because I’m one of the county’s more than 100,000 intended recipients of a primary ballot. I should be concerned if it doesn’t come by next Monday, I was told. However, I was then reminded that that day is a holiday, Presidents’ Day, so I wouldn’t be able to inquire further until Tuesday.

Speaking of Tuesday (Feb. 18), that’s 15 days prior to the election—the last day to register to vote in it. In other words, stragglers still have time. Luckily, it’s as easy as filling out a short form at registertovote.ca.gov. The county’s website erroneously says the deadline is Monday. Whoops. I’m guessing the folks there were thrown off by it being a leap year.

I’ll probably keep you posted on my ballot status, whether you like it or not. In any event, the lag gives me a chance to gripe about this year’s transition to an all-mail system. As you’ll read about in this week’s special election issue, one of the reasons behind moving to such elections is that they increase voter participation. That’s a good thing, but I’ll be the first to acknowledge I wasn’t crazy about the idea.

Then again, my beef is purely sentimental. I’ve always enjoyed the ritual of going to my local polling place. For the past decade, it was a church auditorium about three blocks from my house. What can I say? There’s just something about the process—the energy of joining my neighbors, irrespective of their political leanings, and completing our civic duty. The thought of seeking help at one of the new so-called Voter Assistance Centers doesn’t have the same appeal.

Indeed, it just won’t be the same sitting at the kitchen table, or on the couch in my pajamas, or wherever else I settle down to make my picks. You know, once my ballot actually arrives. On the bright side, I hear we still get that beloved “I voted” sticker. So, at least some things are sacred.