US Officials: Early voting could improve e-voting

Going to the polls before Election Day helps identify problems early

North of Kentucky, in Ohio, early voting is already allowed. And officials there credit it with helping that state's elections go more smoothly on Election Day.

Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said that about 1.6 million voters cast their ballots before Election Day, which helped reduce lines and Election day pressures for state and local officials.

"It's clear that as more and more people discover the convenience of absentee voting ... that more and more people are making that the voting method of their choice," Ortega said. Reducing the number of voters in the state by 1.6 million on Election Day helped keep things moving more smoothly, he said, even though there were still lines of up to an hour in some places.

"Around that state, people were voting pretty much without any major incidents," he said. "Four years ago [when early voting wasn't allowed], there were delays of several hours at polling locations around the state. ...It stands to reason that [with early voting] there will be fewer people on Election Day, taking the pressure off the polls."

In Florida, where early voting also occurs, the program was seen as a success, said Jennifer Krell Davis, a spokeswoman for Florida Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning. "Every voter that was able to be processed before Election Day eased the process," Davis said. "We believe it helped."

This was the second presidential election in Florida that incorporated early voting since it began in 2004. "It was brand-new then," she said. "We believe that people are a lot more aware of it and used to it now."

About 2.6 million voters turned out for early voting this year out of about 8 million votes that were cast, or about a third of those who voted this year, Davis said. "We did have lines in urban areas, which we expected," but overall the early voting helped minimize problems.

Paul Gronke, director of The Early Voting Information Center, said that reports he's been hearing anecdotally since Tuesday's balloting indicate that "election officials believe early voting allows them to manage Election Day voting better."

Early voting helped in places like Georgia, where officials in at least one county were able to move voting equipment around to meet varying needs during the early voting period, Gronke said. "Having early voting allowed such fluid changes," he said.

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