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Absentee ballot is an attractive election option
If it seems like the election season has started early, there's a reason.
Since 1999, Nebraskans have been allowed to submit their ballots early without giving a reason, and a lot of us have been doing it.
"Every campaign should have a good early vote program," said Dave Boomer, campaign manager for the 2nd District GOP incumbent, Rep. Lee Terry. "If they don't, the manager should be sued for malpractice," he told The Associated Press.
It's a boon to tech-savvy campaigns, which can receive lists of registered voters to keep track of who has requested absentee ballots and who might be persuaded by a knock on the door by a volunteer.
It's also a boon to busy voters who may otherwise have to juggle work, school, daycare and sports activity schedules, for example, just to make a traditional visit to the poll.
Before the law changed, for example, 3,000 to 5,000 people cast early ballots in Douglas County, the state's biggest county. In the 2008 general election, that jumped to 60,000.
In Red Willow County, 156 people voted early out of a total of about 1,900 votes cast in the May primary.
All county election offices in Nebraska will accept early voting applications up to 120 days before a statewide primary or general election. Requests for an early ballot must be submitted by 4 p.m. on the Wednesday before election day.
Early voting ballots are either sent by mail or are available to be picked up at county election offices 35 days before the election. That's also the first day ballots are sent to non-military stateside applicants.
It's a win-win-win situation.
Like all "salesmen," political operatives know that if you can persuade someone to request an early ballot, that voter is likely to choose your candidate.
It makes it easier for voting officials to accurately count more votes, reducing work and pressures that might produce errors on election day.
And, it keeps things like busy schedules or bad weather from interfering with our right to take part in a vital civic activity.
Plus, it gives voters time to make an informed decision, removed from possible last-minute political shenanigans.
As the campaign season heats up, remember that the absentee ballot option is open.