Absentee ballot voting

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Voting is not something Carl Van Wagoner takes for granted.

A junior studying chemical engineering at BYU, Van Wagoner is registered to vote 650 miles away in Gilbert, Ariz., but that hasn’t kept him from already voting  this year. He sent in his local absentee ballot almost two months ago and will be doing the same for the presidential election in the coming weeks.

According to The United States Election Assistance Commission, 90.8 million Americans cast ballots in 2010.  Of those, 14.2 million or 15.6 percent used absentee ballots.  That number should increase in 2012.

Even though he’s far from home, Van Wagoner votes because he cares what happens in his hometown. “What happens locally still matters to me,” Van Wagoner. “Whoever is in leadership in this country is important to me. Every vote counts.”

With 66 percent of BYU’s enrolled students from out of state, many are eligible, like Van Wagoner, to vote by absentee ballot. Information about guidelines set by each state have been compiled at longdistancevoter.org.

The five states with the highest enrollment at BYU and their absentee ballot guidelines are listed below.

California

Any registered voter in California is eligible for absentee voting. To apply, the Vote-by-Mail Application should be completed and sent to your county elections official.

Another option is to submit a request to your county elections official with your name and address, the address where the ballot should be sent, the name and date of the election and your signature.

There is also an application attached to the sample ballot sent out each election.

Absentee ballot applications must be received by 8 p.m. on Oct. 30 by mail. The absentee ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on election day.

The ballot must be filled out completely and sent in with your signature on the return envelope. Officials compare this signature to your previous signature to prevent voter fraud.

Washington

Washington voting is done by mail, and ballots will be sent out 18 days before the election.  To change the address where the ballot should be sent, use Washington’s MyVote tool, found on the Washington Secretary of State website sos.wa.gov.

Ballots must be returned in person by 8 p.m. election day, Nov. 6 or be postmarked for that day.

Idaho

All registered voters in Idaho are eligible for absentee voting. Absentee ballot applications must be turned in by Oct. 31.

An absentee ballot application can be printed from idahovotes.gov and mailed or faxed to your county election office.

Once the ballot is completed, sign the outer envelope for signature comparison and mail back to the address provided with your ballot. Ballots must be received by mail by 8 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Texas

Not everyone in Texas qualifies for absentee voting. To be eligible, one must be away from their county on election day, sick or disabled, 65 years or older or confined in jail but still  eligible to vote.

Those that are qualified should apply for ballot by mail on the Texas Secretary of State’s website and mail it in by Oct. 30. The ballot will be mailed and must be returned to your county clerk by 7 p.m. election day.

Arizona

Every registered voter in Arizona is eligible for absentee voting.  Absentee ballot applications must be received by Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. Many Arizona counties allow online applications.

To check which counties offer this, visit azsos.gov/election/county.htm and find your county.  Applications can also be printed and mailed to the county recorders office.

Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on election day.

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