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Election is quickly approaching
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With the California presidential primary less than a month away, time is running out for Californians to register to help choose America's next president. The deadline to register to vote in the Feb. 5 primary is Jan. 22.

The timing of this year's primary is taking some voters by surprise as it comes much earlier than past California primaries. The date was moved forward in order to become part of what some commentators are calling "Super Duper Tuesday."

By joining the more than 20 states that will be holding primaries and caucuses on Feb. 5, California legislators hoped that the earlier date would increase candidate interest in the state. Unfortunately for voters, most candidates have thus far avoided California, claiming the size of the state and cost of advertising to be prohibitive to campaigning.

Despite the lack of candidate interest in California, Stanislaus County voters are still very interested in the candidates.

"We anticipate a fairly good turnout," said Lee Lundrigan, Stanislaus County Clerk Recorder. "It's a presidential primary, and it's a good opportunity for people who are registered to vote to enter into the democratic process."

In both New Hampshire and Iowa, the turn-outs were far larger than expected. The appeal of voting in the first primary since 1958 to not include an incumbent president or former vice president is not surprising to Lundrigan.

"Voting in a primary is almost like going to a convention. It's a chance for voters to pick who they are voting for in the presidential election."

Turn-out was so much higher in New Hampshire than expected that some polling locations were in danger of running out of ballots. Fortunately, Stanislaus County looks to be prepared for such a situation.

"In Stanislaus County, we follow California code, and that requires us to have a certain number of ballots at each polling location," Lundrigan said. "We also have a very active and engaged group in Stanislaus County that vote by mail, which takes a number of people that would normally vote at the polls away from there."

Stanislaus County mail-in ballots, formerly known as absentee ballots, were sent out to voters on Friday. While voters should expect to see the ballots in their mailboxes shortly, it is advised that they wait a few days before voting so that they do not vote for a candidate who may drop out of the race.

Those who are in an area with less than 250 registered voters will be required to vote by mail-in ballot. If a voter is unsure of his or her polling place for Feb. 5, the back of the sample ballot contains all the pertinent information.

One pivotal issue in this year's California primary, especially for those planning on voting in the Republican primary, are party requirements facing voters.

"We are considered to be a semi-open primary state," said Lundrigan. "This means that if a political party should so choose, they can allow individuals to cross over and vote for their primary candidates even though they are not affiliated with that party."

In past California primaries, the Democratic, Republican, and American Independent parties allowed for cross-over voters. This year, the Republicans are only allowing registered Republicans to vote in their primaries.

Those who wish to vote in the Republican primaries must change their party affiliation to Republican before Jan. 22.

With primaries or caucuses in Nevada, South Carolina, Florida, and Maine all yet to come before it is California's turn to vote, the primary landscape has the potential to change greatly.

Several state-wide propositions will also be decided on Feb. 5.

Proposition 91 is an outdated measure, as 2006's Prop 1A already achieved what 91 intended. The official proponents of the proposition are now encouraging voters to vote no on 91.

Proposition 92, however, is very much still alive and hotly debated. Prop 92 will lower community college fees from $20 per unit to only $15 and limit future fee increases while setting a minimum funding level for K-12 schools. The measure would cost the state approximately $300 million annually, with an additional annual loss of $70 million in revenue from tuition.

Opponents question how the measure would be funded, as there is no accompanying tax increase. Prop 92 also contains no guarantee that funds will reach college classrooms.

California state politicians are perhaps most concerned with Proposition 93, a measure which will change the way state term limits work.

If Prop 93 passes, legislators may only serve for 12 years, in either house. Currently, politicians may serve for a total of 14 years, six in the State Assembly and eight in the State Senate.

Opponents of Proposition 93 mention that those currently serving in the Assembly or Senate will have their slate wiped clean, allowing them to serve 12 more years regardless of past terms. Additionally, most politicians never cross to the other house, effectively extending term limits by 50 percent for Senators and 100 percent for Assemblymen.

Propositions 94-97 are perhaps the most controversial of the measures on this year's ballot, as they deal with Indian gaming. Each proposition is essentially the same, though each deals with a different band of Southern California Indians.

If all four propositions pass, the casinos operated by these four tribes will be allowed to operate a total of 17,000 more slot machines. In exchange, California will be paid $122.6 million per year, in addition to a percentage of the revenue generated by the slot machines.

Opponents of the measure question the massive expansion of casino gambling in the state and the potential impact of the growth upon other tribes, workers, and the environment. They also claim that language of the measure would allow tribes to underpay the state.

Advocates of Propositions 94-97 cite the millions of dollars of revenue that will be raised each year, especially considering the current state of the California budget. Revenues will be shared with non-gaming tribes, and new environmental standards will be followed by participating tribes.

If voters have any questions, they are strongly advised to call the office of the Stanislaus Clerk Recorder at 525-5200 or visit