Politicians know how often you vote

| Friday, August 06, 2004

How often do you vote? Odds are, your lawmakers know that answer better than you do.

Elected officials – or anyone else who wants to pay for it – can purchase a computer disc from local election boards that gives them fingertip access to constituents’ names, addresses, dates of birth and voting frequency. The only requirement to obtain this information is a signed statement verifying the data will be used solely for political purposes.

With this in mind, if your lawmakers see you’ve been registered for several years yet you only bother to vote once every four years or so, your phone call, letter, e-mail or face-to-face meeting will have much less long-term impact. If you are not registered, it means even less.

The key is to make it difficult for lawmakers to vote against your wishes. If you don’t vote regularly, they know it’s a safe bet you won’t bother to cast a ballot for another candidate on Election Day.

So, be sure and take the time now – with the elections less than 13 weeks away – to make sure your voice is heard this November.

To register, follow the guidelines listed below.

Deadline to register

Each state has a different deadline for voter registration, but in many states, you need to register at least 30 days before Election Day. This year, Election Day is Nov. 2.

Rules to registering

For most states, you can register to vote in person or via mail. Depending on your state, you can print your registration form off the Internet or pick one up in person from the DMV, local board of elections office, post office, library or other location. Contact your local election office or secretary of state’s office for specifics. Listings for these offices can usually be found in the “government pages” section of your local phone book.

Who can vote?

As long as you’re 18 by Election Day, an American citizen and a resident of the state in which you’re planning to register, you have an equal chance to decide who you want to run your country, your state, your county and your town.

Where to vote

After you’ve sent in your registration form, you will receive an information booklet or sample ballot in the mail about where and when you should go to vote. Some states will send a “voter registration ID card.”

Even if you’re on the road on Election Day you can still vote. Many states allow advance voting and mail-in ballots in addition to the traditional absentee ballots. Your local election office should have details.

To vote by absentee ballot, you must submit a request to the appropriate election official; the request must be mailed at a specific time; and a ballot will be mailed up to 30 days before each election — and it should be returned by a specific day or it will not count.

According to the Federal Election Commission, absentee ballots, depending on the state, can be requested by contacting a county clerk, county auditor, county registrar or supervisor of elections, or the board of elections. In most cases, the phone numbers are listed in the government pages of your local phone book.

Finally, don’t forget to make the time to vote.

--by Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Keith Goble can be reached at keith_goble@landlinemag.com.

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