An estimated 11,000 Contra Costa families will have lost their homes to foreclosure this year come Nov. 4 and election stewards and advocacy groups are working hard to ensure they don't lose their right to vote, too.
Those who have moved to another residence after foreclosure must reregister to vote. The problem is not as serious in California as other states with stricter voting laws, but Contra Costa's registrar of voters still wants to spread the word.
"People have a chance to reregister," Steve Weir said, but, he acknowledged, it's probably not a high priority for those voters who were scrambling for shelter.
"I think this will come much stronger to the forefront when the real critical deadline dates approach," Weir said.
To register and receive a polling place and sample ballot, voters must register by Monday.
The final deadline to register is Oct. 20, but those people will not receive a sample ballot.
Weir estimates that Contra Costa will see a record 85 percent voter turnout, or 433,500 voters. Because this election is so popular, he wants to allay fears of foreclosed homeowners who have yet to reregister.
"There's a good chance we'll take care of you," he said.
"If people are really hyped about the presidential election, and I know they are, they can still cast their ballot," he said.
Any registered voter who lost a home to foreclosure and still lives within Contra Costa County can still vote, Weir said.
Their votes will be counted as provisional. Weir estimates his office will count about 20,000 provisional ballots this election, which could lead to long lines and a late night counting ballots.
California voting laws are "liberally construed in favor of the voters," allowing validation of most ballots, Weir said.
Even a registered voter living in his or her car can still cast a ballot by giving the vehicle's location coordinates to the elections office, he said.
Voters in Ohio, on the other hand, can walk across the street from their registered polling place and cast a ballot only to have it disqualified.
The Contra Costa chapter of ACORN, an advocacy group for low- to moderate-income families that offers foreclosure assistance, spent Thursday and Friday canvassing Richmond neighborhoods, offering foreclosure assistance and encouraging voter registration.
"Here in the Bay Area, and especially in Contra Costa County, many of our members have been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis," wrote Lorie Chinn, Contra Costa ACORN co-chairwoman, in an e-mail. "Many of these folks have had to relocate as their houses have foreclosed. This will affect many of our members' abilities to vote for the upcoming election, limiting their power and voice on the issues that affect them."
ACORN for several weeks has run a door-to-door campaign in areas affected by foreclosures to register and reregister voters.
The federal Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan Washington, D.C.-based agency, has concerns how foreclosures will affect the election.
"Foreclosure rates are unexpectedly high and one of the strongest indicators in voter participation is homeownership," said Rosemary Rodriguez, U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairwoman.
"There are a lot of voters out there who might not be sure of their voting status," she said.
"It's probably the last thing on your mind when you're scrambling to move and looking to relocate," she said.
"But it seems to us like there are a lot of people that want to be heard this election, so they ought to take the time and it doesn't take much time."
Reach Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5053 or email@example.com.
Foreclosures and their impact on voters was not a major issue in Contra Costa during the last presidential election. It is this year:
* as of Sept. 23
Source: Contra Costa Registrar of Voters
how to re-register
If you've moved from your place of residence, you need to re-register with Contra Costa's Registrar of Voters to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Here's how: