‘Early’ votes that weren’t cause delay - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

‘Early’ votes that weren’t cause delay

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Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2006 6:16 am | Updated: 3:37 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Once again, we wait for election results. It’s a reason to be at least a bit baffled about socalled early voting — because it isn’t as early as it used to be. Today it’s more like, “late-finding-out voting.”

The direct descendant of what used to be called “absentee voting,” was expanded in Arizona about a decade ago to include anyone who couldn’t be or just didn’t want to be at the polls on election day. Today, though, a huge part of the electorate has become an army of procrastinators. They get mail ballots up to about five weeks before election day — and sit on them.

Maricopa County elections officials estimated that more than 250,000 such ballots remained to be counted after Tuesday’s tally was completed. And so today it has been nearly a week since the election and yet we still don’t know how some hotly contested races turned out.

Tens of thousands of people dropped off their early ballots at polling places. But didn’t most early voters mail in their ballot to avoid contending with polling place crowds?

Yet there they were anyway on Tuesday, acting as taxicab drivers for their ballots, when they could have simply marked their ballots at the polls then.

Early ballots must be checked by hand and voters’ signatures compared to those on file.

It wasn’t always like this. People with such ballots used to vote early, um, more often.

A few weeks before the 2000 Scottsdale City Council elections, the true identity of candidate Gary Tredway became known as Howard Mechanic, a fugitive on the run for 30 years.

He was arrested and later spent several months in federal prison before being pardoned by former President Bill Clinton in January 2001. But in that election, Scottsdale voters who had already cast early ballots for him couldn’t change their votes.

And so “Tredway” garnered a number of early votes — and several on election day, too, interestingly enough. In subsequent elections, however, Scottsdale voters started to hold onto early ballots longer, concerned that something like that might occur after they had mailed them. The Mechanic story wasn’t singularly responsible for procrastination among Arizona early voters. But it hasn’t encouraged them, either.

For days and days now, we’ve been waiting for results on a couple of propositions, some legislative races and one congressional race. And there’s more ahead.

One final result we did get on election night was about Proposition 205, which would have sent every voter in Arizona an early ballot: It was defeated by more than a 2-1 margin. Whew.

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