Will my vote by mail ballot actually be counted?
All Vote by Mail ballots that are returned to county election offices by 8 pm on election day are counted. After the 2000 election, a popular radio talk show host suggested on air that absentee ballots in California are not counted unless the contest is close, and unfortunately this piece of misinformation ended up being repeated to the point where many people became concerned that their absentee votes had not been counted.
All votes legally cast in this state are counted, regardless of whether they were cast at the polling place or submitted via mail through the vote by mail voting process. It may take a little longer to incorporate all of the vote by mail votes into the final election results, but they are all counted.
Vote by mail ballots must be returned to county election offices and received by those offices by the time polls close (8 pm) on Election Day in order to be counted. Late-arriving vote by mail ballots are not counted (just as you would not be able to vote if you arrived at your polling place at 9 or 10 pm).
Don't let anyone talk you out of voting by saying your vote won't count. It does.
And while I'm on the topic of the election, I hope everybody heard Colin Powell say on Meet the Press what I'd like to shout from the mountains every time Sarah Palin or John McCain whips their troops into a xenophobic frenzy:
“ ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no. That’s not America. Is something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”
It should not matter if a candidate is a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Budhist, Catholic, or atheist. "Under God" was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance (which had its beginnings during the Spanish-American War) until the McCarthy era. There is no religious test in the Constitution for any office, though it seems to take a long time to break down that barrier in public life. Just ask David Levy Yulee, Lewis Charles Levin, Louis Brandeis, Jack Kennedy, and Keith Maurice Ellison.