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Early voting debated

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 - Posted by Rich Miller

For those of us who work on election day, early voting is much welcomed. Others see it differently.

Illinois’ new early-voting law will be tested in many Illinois election systems prior to the March 21 statewide primaries, including those in Madison and St. Clair counties. Under the new system, voters will be able to vote as much as a month prior to the election, rather than having to wait until the appointed Tuesday.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the measure into law last year, with the goal of increasing voter turnout. It allows local election officials to institute voting more than three weeks before the election. Previously, the only option for voters unable to go to the polls on election day was to fill out absentee ballots, which is a more complicated process and requires an explanation. […]

Republicans have long expressed concern that measures making voting easier can also make vote fraud easier to commit. In addition, said state Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, there is a philosophical reason for conservatives’ reluctance to throw open the polling places.

“If voting is so important, you need to make that extra effort to do it,” said Luechtefeld, who voted last year against the early-voting measure. “It isn’t just the idea of getting more people out to the polls - it’s getting informed people out to the polls.”

Your thoughts?


  1. - Tweed - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 4:57 am:

    Why not just change voting to Saturday and Sunday? Voting as early as a month is not a good idea. Too much happens in that last month to let that happen.

  2. - bored now - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 7:02 am:

    sen. luechtefeld might be forgiven for not saying what he actually meant: that making voting easier can lead to more democrats showing up to vote — and he can’t have that! republicans are a tightly organized, disciplined bunch (at least outside illinois) and enacting no excuses voting *could* lessen the electoral weight of republican discipline — maybe.

    but i thought early voting was mandated by HAVA. i don’t see the debate here…

  3. - Anon - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:01 am:

    Early voting is prone to a lot of fraud. I am for weekend voting for two days in the Spring or Summer in warmer weather with limited absentee voting. a full weekend Sat and Sun is enough time and to make it during a warmer part of the year.

  4. - Ronnie - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:01 am:

    I think it’s funny people have no trouble taking time off of work to golf or take in a baseball game, but then on election day, they’re all of a sudden too busy to find time to make it to the polls.

  5. - CBM - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:12 am:

    Aren’t early voters subject to the same requirements as those who vote on election day?

    Rich, you made a good point about those who work on election day welcoming early voting, I assume to alleviate the crowds. If there are competent people working the polls there should be fewer problems with fraud not more.

  6. - diane - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:15 am:

    There has long been an opportunity for voters unable to get to a polling place on election day to vote early, either with an absentee ballot or in person at their county courthouse. It reads as though going to the courthouse will still be the method of choice for early voting and that will still be too much trouble for many.

    Sometimes when I let my worst side take over I wonder if some people think we’re living in the 1800’s or a third world country where getting to a polling place on a specific day is an undue burden.

  7. - Anon - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:45 am:

    Early voting has two major differences from absentee balloting. 1. You don’t have to have an excuse to do it (”I plan to be out of town”, “I am a college student away from home”, “I’m on jury duty”, etc.) 2. It can be offered at any number of locations, not just the courthouse. It is not a required component of HAVA. In regard to Sen. Luechtefeld’s comments: Intelligence is not a qualification of voting. It will take no less effort for someone to vote by early ballot than in a precinct polling place. It will probably mean voters will have to go farther to vote. It just adds the convenience of being able to do it during a larger time frame.

  8. - SouthernILRepub - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:51 am:

    Early voting is great, it will increase turnout. However for campaign workers it will make it increasingly harder to get firm counts on Y/N. Of course that is just an insiders opinion! If anything it will make organizations more likely to push people to the polls.

  9. - babs - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 9:32 am:

    “Election day” was thought up when happy-hour was a regular part of the day too. Everyone left their offices at 5:00. No longer do “well informed voters” work 8 hours days. Commutes take many people over an hour each way. Welcome to the 21st Century Illinois - it’s about time.

  10. - whatarewecomingto? - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 9:40 am:

    Luechtefeld sounds like the 21st Century version of Buford Pusser. Encouraging people to participate and vote is a good thing. Early voting is only the first step. Why we continue to require people to “register” to vote also makes no sense. In this day and age we should allow anyone to vote with a valid drivers license or a state id card. That system should be able to deal with the citizenship issue. With a bar code on the back of the cards, we can eliminate multiple voting. No system will be absolutely foolproof - we this system will encourage voting and allow the election boards to work on helping people vote instead of kicking them off the voting rolls for not changing their address or signing in the right place.

  11. - grand old partisan - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 9:43 am:

    bored now, please tell us more about the tight discipline of Republican voters. I almost forgot about how my union rep stongly “reminded” why it was important to vote Republican last election day.

  12. - grand old partisan - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 9:46 am:

    “In this day and age we should allow anyone to vote with a valid drivers license or a state id card. That system should be able to deal with the citizenship issue.”
    - well, that SHOULD be able to deal with the citizenship issue. Too be we have a Democratic Governor and Legislature in this state who thinks that illegal aliens should be able to get a license or id.

  13. - Goodbye Napoleon - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 9:53 am:

    Is Luechtefeld saying we should have a standardized test, or a current events quiz to determine who the best voters are? Perhaps this is the Okawville way of saying “this state ain’t ready for election reform.”

    I think its a good idea because our election systems are old fashioned and need new thinking and new concepts. But I don’t think this will actually improve turnout more than a percentage point or two.

  14. - DOWNSTATE - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 9:54 am:

    Maybe if we all voted early we wouldn’t have these campaign workers that get handed these state jobs as a reward and when they get there we find out how bad they can screw up state agencies.

  15. - Hon. John Fritchey - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:10 am:

    I have actually spoken on this topic a few times in the past couple of weeks. This is the most significant change in election laws in ages. At the campaign level, it dramatically changes everything from mail strategies, to field operations, to election day operations. Starting March 1, you will see and hear about groups being taken to vote from senior homes, condos and subdivisions, churches, etc. Some elections will be won or lost before election day even arrives. Now I think that anything that increases turnout is a good thing. And I think that the media will start to really tout this change in a few weeks. But it will be very interesting to see this concept put into play in a state as ‘creative’ as ours.

  16. - Randall Sherman - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:14 am:

    The impact of early voting will be the unknown “X-factor” in many races in March, particularly the lower profile races.

    Judicial candidates could benefit from this, as they can spend their time letting people know about where and when they can vote early. this allows them to speak up on something without violating judicial canons, and possibly having their names stick in the minds of more voters than before.

  17. - So-Called \ - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:23 am:

    If voting is so important, you need to make that extra effort to do it *** It isn’t just the idea of getting more people out to the polls - it’s getting informed people out to the polls.

    Is Sen. David Luechtefeld really advocating Jim Crow era “literacy tests”? Or is the obvious inferrence somehow incorrect?

  18. - cermak_rd - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:38 am:

    I like the idea of early voting because it means tha t I can get my vote out of the way early, and then focus on election day activities.

    The comment about making the extra effort to vote seems hideously condescending. And who is he to judge what is an informed voter? Most people know what their big issues are, whether it’s the environment or the lack of a stop light at the corner or whatever.

    Are the bar associations going to get their ratings up earlier this year? Will the papers at least have web links to the bar results earlier?

  19. - Ron - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 11:30 am:

    the reason given for early voting is to improve the turnout. why set the time frame at three weeks? why not four weeks? why not six weeks? why do the democrats always look for ways to try to increase the turnout, when voter turnout is directly related to whether people feel their vote really makes a difference. there is generally more vote fraud in the democratic districts. e. st. louis typically votes 90%+ for democrats and there is always vote fraud. the e. st. louis election board just published there new voter list and they have 22,000+ voters in a city with a population of about 30,000. this is the same city with over 10,000 students in there school district. do the math, it doesn’t add up. i have lived in the metro east area for over 50 years and i have never heard an official from louis or st. clair county express any concern about vote fraud in other areas of st. clair county. recent trials resulted in conviction of a number of elected officals, precinct workers, and campaign workers for fraud in 04. Vote fraud is the problem. everytime i hear the concern about showing voter id, with a picture at the polls, i wonder if any of these same people have ever been on an airplane or cahsed a check, or opend an account at a bank. spend money on a picture id for everyone and voter fraud will be reduced significantly and the integrity of the vote process will be improved and voting will increase. luechtefeld represents part of st. clair county and has seen and experienced first hand the results of voter fraud and its turning off others about voting. IMPROVE the integrety of the vote process and give more choices at the ballot box(eliminate gerrymandering, which protects the incumbents) and more people will vote, because they feel it will make a differnce.

  20. - retread - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 11:38 am:

    Like I said earlier, if people can take the time to hit a ball game during the work week, they should be able to take the time to vote on Election Day. This doesn’t seem a bad comment, so I’m not sure why it was delated.

  21. - bored now - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 12:18 pm:

    grand old partisan: you have to realize that my experience with republican campaigns rests primarily outside of illinois. it is easy for me to forget that illinois missed the reagan revolution, that they were winning in illinois based upon the use of state workers for their campaigns. the last statewide (senate) campaign i did in illinois was in the early 80s!

    yes, i have a national focus (which i know is suspect on rich’s blog!), and my experience in numerous republican campaigns is that republican voters are very disciplined — they will turn out to vote, often by absentee, in higher percentages than democrats. i’ve always suspected that democratic gotv efforts were akin to herding cats.

    republican campaigns tend to be extremely well-organized, highly structured, and appeal to a much tighter disciplined group of voters than democrats. proof of this can be found in the extremely well-organized bush effort in ohio, where they had one volunteer for every 17 voters (the rule of thumb is that you’d like one volunteer for every 25 voters). you can also find evidence of republican voter discipline in the exurbs. as for a detailed analysis of the ohio operation, the dayton paper did a really fine job on it last year.

    those interested in learning these tactics can look into the leadership institute or one of the other movement conservative campaign schools. this training of gop/conservative activists has put conservatives in a much stronger position to win, both primaries and general elections. there is a campaign doctrine here.

    but i can’t speak towards your experience with a union boss. that’s outside my own experience…

  22. - Common Sense in Illinois - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 12:19 pm:

    There is very little difference in my opinion between Early Voting and Absentee Balloting. Looking at the legislation reveals the counting process is fairly similar…the real difference as John Fritchey points out is the locations where early voting takes place. The statute requires Early Voting places to be identified and published, so the locations are locked-in well before Early Voting actually begins. In the final analysis, will Early Voting increase turnout? I think it will in this election cycle, but only because it’s the “new kid on the block”. After this cycle I expect it will lose popularity and become as effective as absentee balloting in short order.

  23. - Hon. John Fritchey - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 12:30 pm:

    Don’t forget the other added intangible this March which is that we will have the optical scan ballots which voters here have never seen before. So maybe early voting will also help lessen the delays that will be inevitable on Election Day.

  24. - Common Sense in Illinois - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 12:47 pm:

    Good point, John. Some downstate areas will be using computer terminals for the first time, so that may factor in also.

  25. - Aaron - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 3:43 pm:

    Some, like “So-Called” are reading far too much into this or are just looking for an argument.

    I think it’s imperative that we have an informed electorate to sustain the strength of our deomcracy. I don’t see where exerting a little effort to walk/bike/drive/bus to a polling station before or after work is keeping anyone from voting that wants to vote.

    Are we too self-absorbed to be “inconvenienced” by voting between 6a and 7p a day or two per year? We’ve totally lost perspective of our values and have taken our liberty for granted if this is the case.

    Leaving the polling places open for days on end just seems like more opportunity for the more sleazy amongst us to bus in voters who are unwittingly swayed to vote one way or the other, or are subtly (or not-so) bribed to vote. Just seems to open the whole thing up to more fraud, and Illinois is perhaps the last state that should be implementing measures that could increase fraud.

    It’s difficult enough in some parts to come up with election judges, so I wonder how that works.

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 5:24 pm:

    Retread - I don’t know what world your living in, but not everybody can leave work any time they please, and some folks actually commute and work for more than eight hours a day.

  27. - Will - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 7:48 pm:

    I just love the people who think everyone in the world has a cushy 9-5 job that should easily allow them to vote on election day. For a single parent working two or three jobs, taking time to vote isn’t a matter of tearing themselves away from the golf course.

    In Southern states like Tennessee and Arkansas early voting has surprisingly helped Republicans. That’s because the Democratic Party in those states didn’t engage in a strong early voting GOTV program. In absence of a campaign to inform and encourage Democratic voters about early voting, the result was that more Republicans took advantage of the convenience.

    In 2006, the primary and general election campaigns that put a full effort into early voting GOTV campaigns will have a big advantage over the candidates and organizations that are stuck in a rut. It will be interesting to see who plays it smart and who is taken by surprise.

  28. - Anon - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:43 pm:

    Early voting is a great idea, however I think there are several issues that we’ll all see come March. First, David Orr made is sound as if we’d get to vote anywhere within the county, however early voters in Cook still have to vote in their town. I can’t get to my polling place before 7 on Election night, so how am I going to get to the polling place to vote between 9am and 5pm any other day? I do understand there will be one or two saturday voting days. Second, I believe all ballots have to be counted in precinct. So, as an election judge I’m assuming I’ll have to wade through election day ballots PLUS abesentee ballots, early voting ballots, and provisional ballots.

  29. - maconco - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:56 pm:

    Under Gov. Bush Texas had early voting.
    Iowa 60% of the voters vote early.
    The republicans seem to have benefit from early voting elsewhere.
    McHenry County under republican co. clerk ( a fine and great public servant) is planning like 15 early voting sites in her county. the St Clair and Madison County Clerks are only using their offices.

  30. - swede - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:43 pm:

    I love the idea. As a Democratic Precinct Captain I already have lined up 2 minivans. Hopefully I can actually take up to a hundred of my voters to the Early Voting Station over the 2 week period the Board is giving us. I think it’s great. I won’t have as much pressure. On election day 30-40 percent of my precinct hopefully will already have voted. At least half of the old equation is finally ringing true. “Vote early and vote often.”

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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