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Tue July 31, 2012
Absentee Votes Spike In Close Runoff
Mail-in ballots for the the Congressional District 33 race in Dallas and Tarrant Counties have exceeded mail-in ballot numbers turned in for the primary -- in half the time.
In close runoff contests, consultants like Dallas’ Renee Hartley say mail-in votes matter because they come closest to being a sure thing.
"Candidates push early so hard because you have a week this time, normally you have two weeks to do it," Hartley said. "And every time they can get a vote that they know they have in the bank, that’s been cast, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to wait till election day because anything may happen."
In the May primary, two weeks of Democratic ballots mailed in from Dallas and Tarrant Counties totaled a little more than 3,600 votes. By the end of last Friday’s single week of early voting, the vote total exceeded 5,000. That’s nearly 40 percent more votes.
In the past, mail-in ballots seemed vulnerable to possible fraud. Some Dallas County residents reported absentee ballots arriving in the mail even though they never requested them. The suspicion was that people were grabbing ballots from mailboxes after illegally requesting them. They then filled them out for specific candidates, and mailed them back. Dallas Republican party chair Wade Emmert says possible fraud is why party officials pay special attention to mail-in ballots.
"If it’s like the provisional ballot board, you’ll have folks from both parties reviewing each signature and they’ll come to a consensus," he said. "And then ultimately it’ll go on to the election judge for that board to approve their recommendation. So I never take it for granted that someone else is going to be watching out for the process. That’s part of our responsibility."
Consultant Hartley says parts of South Dallas, now included in Congressional District 33, used to be considered a hotbed of possible voter fraud. But that’s changed.
"I can understand how there’s the potential for corruption, but I think that because of attention paid to it in the last decade or so, candidates are very, very aware and that they stay on the right side of the law."
Hartley says today, legitimately pursuing absentee ballots in close races like the District 33, or the statewide U.S. Senate contest, is just smart politics.