Q: When are absentee ballots counted? Are they counted as they arrive (if early) or are they not counted until after in-person ballots are counted? And what about incomplete ballots?

-- Pamela Wildermuth

Kern County elections chief Karen Rhea answered:

Vote-by-mail ballots are received by elections, the voter record is marked as "Ballot Received" and the signature on the envelope is verified against the voter's signature on his or her registration form.

These ballots are then held until 10 days prior to the election. At that time we are permitted to open the envelopes and begin to process them through ballot scanners. At 8 p.m. on election night, the tally is processed and a report is produced of the results of all vote-by-mail ballots processed to that point.

During the canvass, all remaining vote-by-mail ballots are processed/counted. I am not sure what is meant by incomplete ballots. If the question is about ballots that are not fully voted, then the votes cast on the ballot are tallied and for those races where no vote was cast, an undervote is recorded.

If the question is regarding a deficiency in the completion of the voter declaration on the return envelope, such as a missing signature, we make every attempt to contact the voter and allow him or her to come in and correct the deficiency prior to the close of polls.

Q: OK ... I have to get this clear in my head. So these people walk door-to-door and knock ... If they hear dogs bark, they check to see if the dogs are licensed? Then what?

My dogs live better than most people do. They have better health insurance than I do. They all have their shots, they are all chipped, they are all fixed, and they all have collars and tags. My dogs even know they have it good.

So why am I paying even more for a license? What do I get for that fee? Free grooming? My dog brought home if he gets out? A really nice collar? I don't know.

How about this: Do what you're supposed to do and respond when people call. Get bored and have nothing to do? Go pick up all of the dogs that are abandoned not more than a block away from your shop ...The door knocking thing is a waste of my tax dollars!

-- Wm Murphy

A: We asked Kern County Animal Control officials to respond, first asking what the purpose of the Public Education and Enforcement Team -- which goes door-to-door encouraging dog owners to register their pets and get them vaccinated and spayed or neutered -- is:

"Rabies is a potentially fatal disease that affects animals and humans," they said. "Because it is widespread in California, state and county laws mandate that all dogs age 4 months and older be vaccinated against rabies and licensed in the city or county in which they reside.

"The vision of Kern County Animal Control is that all county citizens are safe from the threat of dangerous and unhealthy animals, and that all animals receive humane treatment in a caring environment.

"The PEET team's efforts generate enough revenue to cover around two-thirds of their cost and it is still a developing program with much more potential for growth."

Then we asked where the money for licensing dogs goes.

"Dog licenses and license renewal fees are the primary sources of revenue for Kern County Animal Control, enabling the department to provide necessary services to all the citizens of Kern County," they said.

"A sample of services includes finding new homes for unclaimed or surrendered pets; protecting animals from abuse and neglect; keeping neighborhoods safe from aggressive dogs; providing animal care and safety information to the community.

Kern County Animal Control Officers respond to an average of 26,000 calls and the shelters house more than 32,000 misplaced animals a year.

"Also, 10 percent of all license fees collected fund our low-cost spay and neuter program. This program allows us to assist the community in preventing more unwanted pets."

Ask The Californian appears on Mondays. Submit questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.