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Pennsylvania

State voters may get early ballot option

| Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008

Several state lawmakers plan to introduce legislation that would allow voters to cast their ballots before elections, a move that proponents say would make it more convenient to vote and help avoid long lines at the polls.

"We want to make it more flexible for working families, for senior citizens, and for avoiding long lines on Election Day," said Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York. "We need to make it easier for qualified voters to vote in Pennsylvania."

Early voting is allowed in more than 30 other states, including Arizona, California, Colorado and North Carolina.

Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, said early voting in other states helped ease lines in the last presidential election.

"Advance voting has grown in nationwide popularity and value," he said. "Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, while absentee ballots are permitted under a limited set of circumstances, advance voting is not an option. We should make voting more convenient for those whose schedule or circumstances present a challenge to getting to the polls on Election Day."

Absentee ballots are available to voters who will be of town, incapacitated, or hospitalized on Election Day.

Rep. Mike McGeehan, D-Philadelphia, plans to sponsor a related bill that would expand absentee ballots.

Charlie Gerow, a political consultant with Harrisburg-based Quantum Communications, said he thinks early voting will grow in popularity. But he said it carries potential drawbacks if done too early.

"Suppose an important issue developed late in a campaign, one that would impact the voting, such as a financial meltdown occurring just before an election, and people had already voted," he said.

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