Absentee voting on the rise

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2004

If requests for absentee ballots are any indication, interest in the presidential election among Suffolk voters is high.

According to Registrar Patsy Parker, as of Thursday, her office had already received more than 200 requests for absentee ballots and they are coming in at a pace far ahead of any election in memory.

About 1,200 Suffolkians voted absentee in the 2000 election and Parker said she anticipates the total being as high as 1,800 this time around.

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&uot;We’ve already got 200 on file requesting a ballot,&uot; Parker said. &uot;We started getting them the first of the year from military. There’s a lot of military, more than we’ve ever had.

&uot;It tells me we’re going to have a lot of absentee ballots…and a lot more work.&uot;

While applications are being accepted, ballots will not be available until after Aug. 20, the deadline for third party candidates to attempt to get on the ballot.

Even then, signatures will have to be verified so it’s likely to be several weeks before anyone can cast an actual ballot.

Interest in absentee voting is up across the nation. According to Washington Post political writer David Broder, who reported Thursday that the prevalence of absentee or early voting across the nation is altering campaign strategies for both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

Broder reported that a spokesman for a business-oriented political action committee said the group has launched a major effort to mobilize member companies to persuade employees to fill out their ballots at their convenience, well before Election Day. They hope to produce 711,000 extra votes in 18 target states.

Other special interest groups are doing the same.

This has been made possible by the liberalization of voting laws. For instance, in all but 29 states, a person can vote early without providing any reason for his or her choice. Such is not the case in Virginia, Parker noted, where voters have to list a reason for their request to vote absentee.

Among the reasons listed on the application are student, being out of town on business, traveling on personal business or vacation, working and commuting to and from home for 11 or more hours between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on election day, a caregiver for an ill or disabled person, jail confinement, election official, religious obligations, U.S. uniformed services member or temporarily residing outside the U.S.

According to Parker, Oct. 28 is the last day her office can mail out ballots and Oct. 30 is the last date that someone can come the Voter Registration office and vote absentee in person. All absentee ballots have to be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 2.

You can pick up an application for an absentee ballot by visiting the Voter Registration office at 425 W. Washington Street, next to the Medicine Shop Pharmacy.

The hours are 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. You can have an application mailed to your home by calling the office at 923-3690.