Paper, Electronic Sample Ballots on the Way in L.A. County

The Los Angeles County Registrar's office began mailing out sample ballots on Thursday, but those who signed up to receive one electronically may have to wait just a little bit longer.

Most people can expect to receive a sample ballot in the mail any time between now and May 26. But this is the first year L.A. County voters also have had the option to get one electronically. Those who opted in to the new system can expect to receive an email around May 10, according to a representative of the registrar's office.

That's because staff are still putting the finishing touches on the delivery system, said Talyssa Gonzales, who worked on the new sample ballot system.

The so-called e-sample ballot will most likely take the form of a digital PDF file. It will be identical to the paper version, but instead of receiving it through the post, you'll receive an email with a link to view or download the file.

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Opting in is a bit like going "paperless" with your bank or credit card company. You're asking the registrar to stop sending you this information on paper, and instead you will start receiving future sample ballots electronically (which means if you like having a hard copy and don't want to bear the cost of printing yourself, this option may not be for you). You can still choose to opt out again at any time.

The new system is supposed to help the office cut down on printing and distribution costs, but it has some other advantages, especially in light of cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Service.

"There are also some concerns with closures of post offices. I believe they'll be put off until after November, but you don't want people worrying about getting their sample ballot late," said Gonzales.

And of course, in a digital age, more people may find it convenient to have a file they can carry around on their laptop, tablet or smartphone.

"Say you leave your sample ballot at home and you want to read up on it. You can access it via email," Gonzales said, adding that if you forget your polling place you can easily look it up on the move. "Basically, it's a catchall for info you need on Election Day."

If you want to sign up to receive an e-sample ballot for the June 5 primary, it's not too late. Just fill out a form at the registrar's website any time up until about a week before the election. For the primary, you'll probably end up receiving the paper version, too. After that, you can be paperless in all but the vote, and even that seems inevitable.

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