Shirley Phillips, a Registrar of Voters employee, sorts returned mail-in ballots. The last day to request a mail-in ballot in Alameda County is October 26. Photo courtesy of Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

Absentee ballots were once used mostly by ex-pats, military families and diplomats strewn across the globe. They voted from far-away locales by filling out ballots at home and mailing them in, while the rest of the population spent a chunk of the day standing in a long line to cast a vote at their neighborhood poll. Now, in California, the mail-in ballot isn’t just for those abroad—it’s for everyone.

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