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states were cast for John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Bill Richardson or Dennis Kucinich, all of whom have withdrawn from their party’s race for the presidential nomination?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A judge in Ocean County ruled Thursday that voters who cast absentee ballots for candidates who have since withdrawn from the 2008 presidential race can get replacement absentee ballots before Tuesday’s primary.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?