Early voting

DEMOREP1 at aol.com DEMOREP1 at aol.com
Thu Oct 29 20:39:11 PST 1998

Date:  Fri, Oct 30, 1998 12:09 AM EDT
From:  SErtelt
Subj:  CAMPEL-L:  Voting is Already Over for Some (news)

Voting's Already Over for Some

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's not just get-out-the-vote any more, it's get-out-the-
vote early.

Election Day already has arrived for millions of Americans: Denver residents
have been popping into Safeway supermarkets to vote early; folks in Reno,
Nev., have been casting ballots while shopping at Macy's; mobile-voting vans
went rolling through apartment complexes in Lubbock, Texas.

Sixty-seven-year-old Esther Ramirez, who voted weeks early in Alameda, N.M.,
is among the Americans who have caught the bug.

``I just wanted to get it over with,'' she said, adding that she likes to
avoid Election Day politicking. ``When I vote, I know whom I'm going to vote
for and I don't like trying to be converted.''

More than a dozen states offer early-voting programs of some form, either
through balloting by mail or in person. These programs, open to all voters, go
beyond traditional absentee balloting that is restricted to people who can't
get to the polls on Election Day.

While a hoped-for boost in voter turnout has yet to materialize from early
voting, it has caused both political parties to work furiously to deliver any
vote they can lock up in advance.

``An early vote is one that cannot be lost or fail to be cast due to a last-
minute conflict,'' says Jim Burnett, chairman of the Republican Party in
Arkansas, where a quarter of the votes cast in the August primary came in

``We're making it easy,'' says Moses Mercado, director of the Democrats' get-
out-the-vote effort in New Mexico, where the party's ``chasing ballots''
program is trying to turn out early ballots both by mail and in person.

Nationwide, Republicans traditionally have had the edge in mobilizing early
voters, but Democrats are determined to become more competitive, arguing that
the convenience it offers is ideal for working-class people who face competing
time demands on Election Day.

``It's not a 9-to-5 crowd, so the early voting option becomes important,''
says Jill Alper, political director for the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans say the Democrats still have a long way to go.

``We don't see any threat coming from the other side,'' says the Republican
National Committee's Tim Fitzpatrick.

New Mexico has been one of this year's hardest fought battlegrounds.

Every Republican there has been targeted for at least five phone calls and
mailings offering absentee-voter applications, directions to early-voting
polling places, and recorded phone messages from GOP Gov. Gary Johnson, Sen.
Pete Domenici and congressmen urging an early Republican vote.

Democrats, for their part, are countering with their own mailings and
computer-generated ``robo-calls'' from Sen. Jeff Bingaman speaking -- in
English or Spanish -- about the benefits of early voting. Energy Secretary
Bill Richardson, a former New Mexico congressman, can be heard on country
radio stations urging Democrats to turn out early.

In Nevada, where a third of the Las Vegas area vote could come in early, the
parties keep daily tabs on how many registered voters from each party have
turned out.

How do they encourage early voting? ``Very expensively,'' says Dan Burdish,
executive director of the state GOP, ticking off phone banks, mailings and
other efforts.

There is some question whether it's worth it.

Curtis Gans of the private Committee for the Study of the American Electorate
said early voting may well depress overall turnout rather than turning out new

With all the emphasis on early voting, he said, ``you're defusing the election
forum that used to mobilize people around one day.'' And the people who vote
early tend to be those who would have been motivated to vote anyway on
Election Day, he said.

Gans' research shows turnout dropping slightly more in early-voting states
that it did in other states over the past 10 years.

Critics also fault early voting on other counts, arguing that it causes people
to vote without benefit of the full campaign, creates more opportunities for
fraud, and favors better-financed and better-organized incumbents.

Nowhere are the pitfalls of early voting more evident this year than in
Tennessee, where 15 to 20 percent of those who cast ballots typically vote

Early voting began five days before the Oct. 19 shooting death of Democratic
state Sen. Tommy Burks and 13 days before his GOP opponent was charged with
the senator's murder.

That means probably hundreds of early voters cast ballots either for a dead
man or an accused murderer. Under state law, any early votes for Burks will
not be counted. His name has been removed from the ballot and his widow is
running a write-in campaign.

Rules vary from state to state, but the Center for the Study of the American
Electorate lists 12 states as having early voting programs: Arizona, Arkansas,
Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas
and Wisconsin.

It lists 18 states as having liberal absentee voting policies: Alaska,
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Vermont,

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