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Voting rules remain vague

February 23, 2011|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com

CITY HALL — The City Council this week broached ditching so-called “emergency ballots” for last minute voters in favor of beefing up absentee vote-by-mail allowances, but stopped short of making any changes for the April 5 election.

Glendale voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot up to seven days before the election, but after that deadline they can fill out an application for a so-called “emergency” vote-by-mail ballot up to Election Day.

California election law allows for the late ballots for people who are disabled or who cannot make it to their precinct because of “unforeseen circumstances” — a vague term that city officials said essentially makes the application impossible to deny.

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About 400 people voted with the emergency ballots in the 2009 election, City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian said.

Council members said that in previous election cycles, some people have observed large groups of people coming to request the last-minute ballots, raising concerns among political watchers.

“We observed people coming in vans, minibuses,” said Councilman Frank Quintero.

Several council members indicated they would like to revisit the policy, though after the April 5 election in which incumbent Councilmen Dave Weaver and John Drayman will face four challengers.

“It seems to me that, obviously not in this election cycle but maybe in the future, we do look at somewhere down the line either just allowing people to get absentee ballots up to the day of the election or…to really have a very clear notice on these requests so that everyone understands what they are to be used for,” Councilwoman Laura Friedman said.

The council resisted any rush to change before the upcoming election.

“I am going to caution my colleagues to tread lightly on changing the election rules five weeks before the election,” Mayor Ara Najarian said. “I think if we’re going to do something like this, we need to conduct some outreach and understand what the heck is going on and what the implications would be.”

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