A lesson in why early voting could bite the voter

Bad fantasy: You voted early. Then everything changed, including your mind. Sorry. Too late.

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Washington state ballot (2010).

Bad fantasy: You voted early. Then everything changed, including your mind. Sorry. Too late.

There's probably a lot to be said for voting early. A good number of voters seem to think so. By the weekend, many among us will have already secured the blessings of liberty by mailing in their ballots. In Washington state, early voters may in turn be spared further telephone harassment by the likes of Pat Boone, whose robotic voice has called our home three times today from somewhere beyond the geriatric ward, urging us to support Dino Rossi.  No small reward, being taken off Pat Boone’s call list in return for voting early.

But think of this. What if you have just voted for a U.S. Senate candidate and mailed the ballot, then you read the newspaper and, suddenly, you are wild to have your ballot back, that you might use it to light the barbecue.

Let’s just speculate, here: You take part in a vote-by-mail system like the one Washington voters use (except for those in Pierce County); your ballot arrives October 13.  You make the appropriate marks and send it off in the afternoon mail.

Beginning soon after, the following things happen:

Oct. 17: Your candidate’s hired security squad detains and handcuffs a reporter for accosting the candidate with questions about his performance as a part-time attorney for a small municipality. (He has earlier declared that he will no longer tolerate questions concerning his past employment).

Oct. 18: Your candidate defends the citizen’s arrest, claiming the reporter shoved someone. Police find no witnesses to any shove, nor to any other activity that would warrant a citizen’s arrest on public property. Military authorities confirm that the guards making the arrest were active-duty soldiers. U.S. military are not allowed to arrest American civilians.

Oct. 19: Denouncing the media for prying into his personal affairs, your candidate acknowledges on national television that he was disciplined by his former employer for improper use of the city’s computers as part of his campaign to oust the chair of the state’s Republican Party.

Oct. 20: A coalition of news organizations files a lawsuit demanding release of documents concerning the computer use for which your candidate was disciplined.

Oct. 20: The head of the security detail who arrested the pushy reporter is said to be allied to a state militia movement (this may actually be a boost for your candidate, or as close as it gets this month).

Oct 23: His former boss, the ex-mayor, says your candidate did indeed use city computers for political work, in violation of the municipality’s ethics code.

Oct. 24:  A judge orders the release of many of the candidate’s personnel records.

Oct. 27:  News media publish excerpts; the largest newspaper in the state reports that while he was working as municipal attorney your candidate secretly entered three of his co-workers’ computers, as part of his failed assault on the party boss. He also cleared his colleagues’ computer caches to erase his tracks, and in the process cleared out their passwords and their saved websites. His actions may have damaged a property tax case they were working on, in which a great deal of money was at stake.

Your candidate is found to have sent the following e-mail to a colleague: "I lied about accessing all of the computers. Then I admitted about accessing the computers, but lied about what I was doing. Finally, I admitted what I did."

OK, relax. If you live in Washington, you didn’t vote for this guy.

This was Alaska, a place as rich in bizarre politics as it is in moose and mountains. Tea Party Republican Joe Miller, he of the lying, the unauthorized computer entry, and the reporter handcuffing, is running neck and neck with write-in candidate and current U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, with Democrat Scott McAdams moving up.

Fortunately for Alaskans, they elect their officeholders under the quaint old system in which most citizens don’t vote until election day.  Then they go to the polls and mark a ballot, live and in person, all on the same day.  It is possible to vote early, in person, at government offices in six locations around the state, or to apply for a mail-in absentee ballot.

But as of Wednesday (Oct. 27) only a small fraction of Alaskans had done either one.  The large majority of the state’s 494,876 registered voters will wait until election day, think it over, and follow the further excellent adventures of Joe Miller.

If there’s a cautionary point to this tale it would seem to be: Hang on to your ballot for as long as you can, until you absolutely know what your candidate is made of.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Bob Simmons

Bob Simmons is a longtime KING-TV reporter who has been writing news for print and television for 65 years.