Reaching for absentee votes

Dan Kalmick has a solid month of campaigning ahead for the Huntington Beach City Council. But as far as he's concerned, a single day may make or break his candidacy — and it's not the day before the election.

Rather, Kalmick has his sights on Oct. 9, a day he's set aside to round up 50 or more supporters and walk neighborhoods throughout Surf City to hand out fliers. The day before, he plans to drop stacks of letters in the mail, so that when voters open their boxes Oct. 9, his message will be waiting for them.

Oct. 9, by Kalmick's estimation, is the day many residents will receive their vote-by-mail ballots in the mail. And when that moment comes, he wants his face and his campaign platform to be fresh in their minds.

"The optimal thing is to have a mail piece or something in their hand at the same time the voter has an absentee ballot," said Kalmick, a 28-year-old who is making his second run for the council.

Vote-by-mail ballots — previously called absentee ballots by the Orange County Registrar of Voters — are set to go out to residents beginning Monday. (Kalmick guesses that they'll take five days to arrive for most people.) Judging from the last few elections, those votes are hardly inconsequential: They made up 38% of all votes in 2004, 48% in 2006 and 47% in 2008, according to City Clerk Joan Flynn.

All ballots must be received at the Registrar or a polling site at 8 p.m. Nov. 2, the day of the general election. Postmarks do not count.

With that early, unofficial deadline looming, many candidates are hitting the pavement particularly hard over the coming week. Barbara Delgleize, who led all challengers in fundraising the first half of this year, plans to knock on as many doors as possible before the vote-by-mail ballots arrive.

Delgleize noted that she considers the ballots a benefit to voters, who have more time to consider their decisions at home than they do at the polls. In the future, she said, she expects vote-by-mail ballots to comprise more than half the turnout.

"I think, in the next couple years, I wouldn't be surprised if that 50% goes to 80%," Delgleize said.

Joe Shaw, who is part of the Team Huntington Beach coalition with Blair Farley and former Mayor Connie Boardman, said his group had spent September canvassing neighborhoods, calling voters and attending meet-and-greets in hopes of snaring mail-in votes. He added, though, that he would continue to campaign just as intensely through October.

"There's still 50% of the people you have to talk to," Shaw said. "So you have to work. You have to keep working."

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