Make your opinion count
First, register to vote. Second, cast your ballot on Nov. 7. If you are not home, arrange to vote by absentee ballot. Sound like too much trouble? New laws have made it so easy, you have no excuse.

You might be surprised how simple it is to register for the upcoming elections. Not sure if you'll be home on Nov. 7? It's a snap to have an absentee ballot sent to your home or another location of your choice.

Both can be accomplished by simply contacting your county clerk/election board office, logging onto the Internet or visiting a library.

You don't have to be home to register; you can call or visit your county clerk/election board office from anywhere. Don't have the number? You can get it by looking in your local phone book under county phone numbers. If you are on the road and you didn't bring a phone book from home, it only costs about 50 cents to call long distance information (area code plus 555-1212). When the recorded voice prompt asks for the listing you wish to contact, you'll need to give the county (Jackson or whatever) plus "county clerk's office." If there is no number listed, ask for the election board.

Once you contact the county clerk/election board office, instruct them that you would like a registration application and/or an absentee ballot sent to your home. They will be happy to accommodate you. Don't forget to find out when the deadline is for returning your ballot. Deadlines range from mid-October to Election Day.

If you are hooked up to the Internet, there's a special place for truckers to find information. Go to www.petro-nj.com/ballot.htm. This helpful web site provides information on obtaining absentee ballots and provides live links to each state's election web site to request a ballot and/or information on registering to vote. The Petro site also lists each state's deadline for turning in absentee ballots to the county clerk/election board office.

Each state site is a little different, but all provide the same essential information. Most sites list the phone numbers of county clerk/election board offices. Some sites require more investigating than others to find the appropriate page and it may take a couple of extra minutes to locate the information, but be patient. You may need to browse or do a search to find the appropriate information. Once you come up with a phone number simply call your county office and request the necessary paperwork.

To speed up the process of getting your registration form and/or absentee ballot, each state site offers a printable registration form and absentee ballot, or a phone number to contact your county office. Most state sites list the officials up for election or the positions being voted on. In addition, state sites offer a lot of interesting information, such as reviewing election results dating back to 1996 on the state of California site, as well as the number of registered voters by county in Missouri on that state's site. You may find yourself browsing the site long after you have collected the information you initially sought.

If you are on the road and do not have Internet access, set aside an hour or two to visit a town library. Call ahead to verify that the library has Internet access. Once you have confirmed that access is available, ask a staff person if you need to sign up for a time slot. If you are unfamiliar with the Internet, ask a staffer for assistance. They will be glad to help you.

Taking the time to follow these simple steps will help ensure that your voice is heard on Election Day. You, and the trucking industry, deserve a voice. n -Keith Goble, staff writer

Thanks to the National Voter Registration Act, known as motor voter law, registering to vote is more convenient than ever. New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming were exempted from the law because they either register voters on Election Day or not at all. New Hampshire town and city clerks accept this registration form only as a request for their own mail-in absentee voter registration form. North Dakota doesn't have voter registration. Wisconsin town, village, and city clerks will accept registration only as a request of their own mail-in registration form. Wyoming cannot accept this form under state law. All other states, however, must allow citizens to register to vote by mail and must accept a universal mail-in voter registration. You can get this form at the drivers' license agency, public assistance and disability agencies. Most states have designated other offices (libraries and schools) to make voter registration forms available.