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Absentee ballot allows students to be counted in 2000 election

From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 5, 1999
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WASHINGTON - As the 2000 presidential race heats up, so does the activity of student groups devoted to political activism.

With thousands of students many miles from their hometown, the absentee ballot allows students to vote in their hometown elections.

"Generally you must apply to the electoral committee of your home county," said Bill Kimberling, deputy director of election administration at the Federal Election Commission.

Kimberling said the manner in which ballots are counted varies from state to state.

"In some states it is counted on election night as if it's part of the regular count," he said. "Others don't have that ability and add the total a day or two later."

Campus organizations such as the College Democrats and College Republicans devote much of their efforts toward increasing student participation in elections.

"We push voting in no matter what form," said Lisa Kohnke, the national field director for College Democrats of America.

Kohnke said that the number of students who vote either in their campus towns or via absentee ballots varies. She also added that much of the Democrats' efforts are focused at local chapters of the organization. Anjan Choudhury, president of the College Democrats at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said his organization works to increase voter registration.

"Most people register at their homes," Choudhury said. "We try to promote voter registration."

Choudhury said they rely on the national College Democrats Web site (www.collegedems.org) for material related to voter registration.

Brad Murphy, chairman of the College Republicans at GW, said the College Republicans spend much of the year promoting student participation.

"We have sign-up sheets and write down the individual counties of students. We have a list of every single county's election board with their address and phone number," Murphy said.

Murphy said the College Republicans generally push for voting in a student's home district, as opposed to voting in the D.C. elections.

With the March 2000 primaries approaching, students who are not registered to vote have to register by the time they return from winter break.

Murphy said that the College Republicans had conferred extensively with Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org), a non-partisan Web site that provides information regarding local election boards and candidates from across the country.

"Vote Smart is where we got the list of all the (election board's) numbers," Murphy said. "It also gives us access to voting records that we can just print out."

Kimberling said that he had heard rumors of counties not counting absentee ballots unless needed to break ties. He added that those counties did not use the ballots legally.

"Absentee ballots are regular ballots, and they should be counted like regular ballots," he said.

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