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Changes May Confuse Early Voters

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Thursday is the first day Wake County voters can participate in early voting for the Nov. 4 elections. There are a number of races still to be decided, but a change in the early voting process could confuse voters.

Before the Oct. 7 election, many people discovered voting early by mail was not as easy as it once was. Early voting initiatives passed in 2000 made absentee ballots a popular choice. Now, that choiceis less of a convenience.

In a flurry of legislation at the end of the summer, atate Sen. Tony Rand added a provision to a catch-all bill that created more red tape for voters who want absentee ballots.

Request forms for the ballots are no longer available online and they cannot be photocopied. Voters must send in written requests to get a request form to receive an absentee ballot by mail or get one in person from their county Board of Elections.

Rand said he engineered the change to cut down on voting abuse. Some Democrats accused Republicans of using mass mailings of absentee ballots to win recent elections.

"Republicans have been very effective in having programs to get people involved and getting them to vote sending absentee ballots. But you know, we don't have a monopoly on that," said Rep. David Miner, R-Wake County.

"There are ideas that are still in the General Assembly on how to get people to turn out. So any way that we can get more people to participate in the democratic process is something that's positive," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake County.

Absentee ballots are more than a preference for some

military voters

-- it is the only way for those deployed overseas to vote. Many legislators said getting more ballots out to more voters can tip elections either way.

Elections workers said the new provisions add up to more work for them. In the last election, they had to call some voters to tell them they mailed in their absentee ballots too late to be processed.

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