The Edwards Factor: Absentee Votes That Won’t Count

Has anyone speculated on how many of the millions of absentee ballots that have been cast across the Super Tuesday states were cast for John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Bill Richardson or Dennis Kucinich, all of whom have withdrawn from their party’s race for the presidential nomination?

This article outlines the mess in New Jersey, where some counties are allowing absentee voters to vote a second time if their first ballot was cast for a candidate who is now out of the race. But most of the state’s counties are not allowing that re-do.

When New Jersey moved its primary forward from June to February, the common conception was that Garden State primary votes might carry more weight early in the 2008 Presidential race.

Now, in some counties, those votes might carry none at all.

A judge in Ocean County ruled Thursday that voters who cast absentee ballots for candidates who have since withdrawn from the 2008 presidential race can get replacement absentee ballots before Tuesday’s primary.

But the ruling only applies specifically to Ocean County, and the decision for the rest of the ballots is up to the clerks of the other 20 counties in New Jersey.

This California paper editorial says that second chances shouldn’t be allowed.

The pollsters will tell us how previous Edwards and Giuliani supporters voted at the precincts today, but we’ll never know how things might have been different if the absentee voters had been able to designate their second Super Tuesday choices.

There also could be quite a few Californians who would like to change their votes on candidates or ballot measures because of what they have seen in late TV ads, last-minute mailers or even newspaper articles. But all things considered, it’s probably best that the absentee votes are locked in. That’s because the mailers that reached your door late last week or Monday are about as trustworthy as a flea-market laptop.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times’ Pat Morrison on the topic of early birds missing out:

The chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party sent an e-mail reminder that “absentee ballots will save valuable time and money in the final weeks of the campaign and help busy people to remember to cast their ballots.”

Save time? Excuse me. The country asks its citizens to sit up and pay a little attention to politics every four years, rather than choosing a president by the venerable “one potato, two potato” method, and you can’t spare the time to check the headlines for a few more days? If voters can’t get to the polls before or after work, California law requires employers to give them a maximum two hours’ paid time off to vote.

Save money? What’s a stamp cost now, 41 cents? As for remembering, with political news wallpapering the world, who can forget that there’s an election on?

A call from my mother this morning prompted me to ask this question.

First, she wanted to know if I’d voted yet. I said no – I’m in Ohio – our primary isn’t until March 4.

Then she told me that she and my father had long ago cast their Connecticut absentee ballots – for John Edwards.

Then she told me that she’d heard that California was in receipt of at least 2 million absentee ballots already and that, given it’s California, very likely, many of those are for John Edwards.

So – now what?

We make such a big deal – rightly so I believe – that every vote should count.

We make such a big deal – rightly so I believe – that too few people and often only the hardest of hardcore wonks and voters in any political party vote in primaries.

We make such a big deal – rightly so I believe – about the insecurities in our voting system that we’ve encouraged record numbers of people to vote absentee.

And then, John Edwards (and Rudy, Fred, Dennis, Bill Richardson – did I miss anyone?) drops out. Before Super Tuesday. But after millions of people have cast absentee ballots. Many of which will be for him.

So – now what? Any good suggestions? Other than being upset, angry, not surprised or otherwise shrugging it off?

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  • lurxst

    How about a nationwide primary day?

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jillmz

    Yes – I've read about that suggestion – do you think it would work – would it really help eliminate absentee voting, though, as a recommended tool to calm anxiety about systems that fail?

    What about Maine's weekend caucusing?

  • superdestroyer

    Leave it to New Jersey to be able to ignore the voting rights act. I thought you could not change the rules of an election afterwards. Also, how will they know which ballot to eliminate.

    It seems open to fraud but since NJ is a deep blue state, I guess it will be tolerated. Image the outcry if they tried this in Flordia.

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jillmz

    So SuperD – do you lean toward leaving the absentee system alone, in general, and tough nuggies to those who voted in advance for someone who is now out of the race?

  • Anna

    I would think this would be an issue in any election since the advent of the absentee ballot, not just this one. I'm not completely sure about this, but don't the delegates that would be for candidates that have dropped out end up going to who that candidate ends up endorsing? Isn't that the point of a dropping candidate providing an endorsement? If that candidate doesn't endorse anyone, then I think it's up to the delegate to make their own choice. If this is the case, it's not that a person's vote for a dropped candidate doesn't count at all, but perhaps not in the way they had first anticipated.

  • Anna

    Funny thing, I just ran across this article in today's Chicago Sun-Times about early/absentee voting:

    http://www.suntimes.com/news/brown/776716,CST-N

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jillmz

    Interesting article, thank you. I don't know what happens to the vote – because what happens if there is no endorsement? Maybe caucuses have an advantage over primaries in this sense?

  • 4edwords08

    Hi Jill, I was never so disconcerted in my life than in 2006 when I helped recount ballots for a contested race in Southern Calif. I saw literaly thousands upon thousands of absentee ballots that never did get counted. I want to be an observer tonight for John Edwards, so that suspended campaign or not he has earned the votes to obtain his delegates. By the way he has not dropped out, he suspended his campaign for the present. As one of his supporters/volunteers we placed ads on his behalf and launched a huge get out the vote for Edwards by email and phone banking. The message needed to get out so that the public will know that they can still vote for him in present time and that their vote will be counted and therefore Edwards will have a say so about where the Democratic Party goes and the status of what our platform should encompass.

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jillmz

    Wow – thank you for this comment, 4ed. So – just to be clear, since he only suspended the campaign and didn't “end” it, that means that any delegates he would get by virtue of the number of ballots cast for him, will still go in his column and NOT go uncounted or to another candidate? That is fascinating. Sorry I'm very naive in this, but is there a good place to go to read about how the process for him would work at this point? You seem like you know.

    And thanks for doing this civic duty. You doing it, I am sure, makes others want to also.

  • 4edwords08

    Hi Jill,
    Yes, is the answer to your question, his votes go to his column and so does the delegate.
    10 of Edwards delegates were already awarded to Obama and Clinton based on the proportional voting in the early states. But the others remain his. It is dependent on the percentage of the votes cast compared to the proportion for each candidate. Each state seems to be a tiny bit different in the rules but there are general rules set up by the DNC.
    A visit and some time to dnc.org will give the general rules and a trip to http://www.johnedwards.com can help find information on the awarding of delegates particular to his status. I have an article up called Clarification on the California Primary by Abigail Marshall.
    Observation of the process is key to make sure that the vote you cast was awarded properly. Thank you for the opportunity.
    I think that the Absentee Ballot need s a re-look but that is my opinion and based on the experience that I had.
    A visit to your local Registrars office to see about being an observer really is eye opening. Anyone can do it.
    By the way you can still fill out an application to be a delegate in California. You have till April to apply: www. cadem.org

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jillmz

    Thanks, 4ed – I'm actually in Ohio but your links are great -thank you and good luck to your candidate – I just saw that he has at least 5% in Georgia at the moment!