Absentee ballots grow in popularity

The blue envelopes are some of the tens of thousands of mail in ballots being processed in Santa Clara County.

It's a growing trend among voters.

"It's convenient, it saves gas, it saves time and saves a lot of stress," said mail-in voter Beverly Wilson.

When you look at the 15 counties with the most registered voters, Santa Clara County has the highest percentage of permanent absentees -- 56 percent.

It's 44 percent in Alameda County, 39 percent in Contra Costa 35 percent in San Francisco County and a mere 12 percent in Los Angeles County.

The Santa Clara county registrar of voters says mail in ballots give his department a jump on election night madness.

"The election code has changed so that we can begin processing those votes received by mail ten days before the election so it allows us to do all this labor intensive work over a ten day period," said Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Jesse Durazo.

Even though mail-in ballots are processed early, the votes are not tallied until after the polls close at 8:00 p.m., providing everyone some instant absentee numbers.

State mandated restrictions on electronic voting will however slow down results coming from the polling places.

Across the state optical scanning machines will be working overtime. That's because they are also needed to process all of the paper ballots coming from the precincts.

Each machine reads about 2,000 ballots per hour. Santa Clara County has 10 machines, but they can get jammed and not every county has as many optical scanners as it wants.

Bottom line, a big picture of voting trends in California will take longer this year.

"In this kind of election using mostly electronic ballots, we would be done maybe by midnight or one, it will now probably be five or six tomorrow morning," said Santa Clara County Election worker Matt Moreles.

In a close race, that extra wait can be excruciating which is why Santa Clara County hopes to have even more people signed up as permanent mail in voters for November.

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