- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Early voting — a burgeoning trend in almost every state — is expected to get a further boost from an online service that opened yesterday.

The commercial venture, HelpingAmericansVote.org, is nonpartisan and available to businesses, interest groups and labor unions. But the demographics of early voting suggest that it will help President Bush and other Republican candidates more than Sen. John Kerry and the Democrats in the November elections.

Through e-mail, paycheck stuffers and newsletters, the new service will give employees information on how to vote early either in person — as most early voting is conducted — or through mail-in ballots in each state, said Brian Lunde, chief consultant to the service.

He said 80 percent of the states allow citizens to vote before Election Day — in some cases as early as 43 days before — and 60 percent of those states permit unconditional early voting, in person or by mail, “without imposing any absentee requirements whatsoever. That means that any voter in those states can simply decide to vote early. Period.”

By Labor Day, voters in 90 percent of the states will be able to receive a mail-in ballot in the mail, he said.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, predicted that the service “will help more Americans take advantage of new state laws that make voting easier and more convenient.”

Election surveys show that early voting is growing and that early voters tend to be more conservative, better-educated, wealthier and better-informed and vote Republican.

In the 2000 presidential race, for example, the National Annenberg Election Survey reported that 15 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day, and those early voters were 7.2 percent more likely to vote for Mr. Bush than for Al Gore.

In the growing number of states where ballots can be cast early without the voters having to claim absence from the state, 23.5 percent cast votes before Election Day.

“The notion that American voters cast their ballots on a single day … is no longer accurate,” said the Annenberg survey, adding, “Election Day is more accurately described as the last day when voting for candidates takes place.”

The service could be especially helpful to Mr. Bush in the 18 battleground states where the 2000 election was very close and where early voters tend to be conservative and Republican.

In Mr. Gore’s home state of Tennessee, which Mr. Bush won by less than four percentage points, 38 percent voted early.

The growth of early voting is especially evident is states such as California, where one in four votes were cast early in the 2000 presidential election. And in Oregon, where there are no polling places, all voters get mail-in ballots more than two weeks before the election.

States tend to like early balloting — or what in some states is called absentee balloting — because it eases the burden of handling voters and counting ballots on Election Day.

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