Early ballots offer inviting voting alternative

Friday, October 6, 2006

Reporters, candidates and political junkies know the routine; the first ballots arriving at the courthouse, the tallying the results, the midnight vigil waiting for the last precincts to come in.

We're grateful that's mostly a thing of the past, thanks to Nebraska's new system of automated counting of paper ballots (which to us seems a wise alternative to purely electronic systems, which are accused of having security problems).

So far, anyway, Red Willow County's automated voting system has worked well, as has the state's election system in general.

That doesn't mean it can't be improved. In fact, a major improvement already has been implemented, needing only more of us to take advantage of it.

Voting for the Nov. 7 election is already under way, having begun this week.

Any registered voter can vote early for any reason, Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said. It can be done by a walk-in vote at county election offices, or by casting a ballot by mail.

Note he said "registered voter." If you have never registered, or have changed your name, address or political party affiliation, you need to register. Don't worry if you didn't vote in the last election, you're still signed up.

Registration forms are available at many sites, such as post offices, county election offices, motor vehicle offices or online at http://www.sos.state.ne.us.

Mail-in registrations must be postmarked by Oct. 20, and registrations close at state agencies, county treasurer offices and motor vehicle offices the same day. If you walk in to county election offices, however, you have until Oct. 27.

You have until 4 p.m. Nov. 1, if you're a registered voter, to request, in writing, an early-voting ballot. Nov. 6 is the deadline for in-person, early voting at county election offices. The close of polls on Nov. 7 is the deadline for the return of early-voting ballots.

Perhaps you enjoy driving or walking to the polls. In that case, please do. If there's bad weather that day, however, you may have wished you would have done things differently.

Early voting offers other advantages as well, such as extra time to read the ballot questions, time to do the actual marking, rather than feeling rushed by the next person in line, and, if you're a parent, no need to have your children wait while you vote, or find a babysitter.

By requesting an early ballot, you'll know you've done your duty as a citizen.

And, you can let that negative campaigning slide right past, knowing you've already made your choice.

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