With less than three weeks left in a memorable election cycle, many voters in Albany County, the state and across the nation are casting ballots before the Nov. 8 Election Day.
In Albany County, absentee voting allows electors to cast a ballot up to 40 days before an election. Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales said it’s an advantage for many voters who find it convenient to register, pick up or cast a ballot prior to Election Day.
“If they choose to come and register and cast their ballots, or just register or to take a ballot with them, we’re hoping this will give them an opportunity to do so,” Gonzales said.
There are several advantages for electors, Gonzales said. Though Albany County’s polling locations generally do not have problems with accommodating voters in a timely fashion, she said some people prefer or need the time they can save by registering and having a ballot in-hand before Election Day.
“In the 2008 general election, there were lines because individuals wanted to register and then vote. Filling out the application isn’t very time-consuming, but you go through that line and then you have to go back to another line to get your ballot,” Gonzales said. “So, the convenience would give them an opportunity, if they’re ready to cast a ballot, they can go ahead and do so.”
For some voters, Gonzales said a matter of time can determine whether an elector is able to cast a vote. In addition to providing an option for voters to avoid lines on Election Day, she said absentee voting can assist the Albany County elections office with its preparations for a potentially large turnout. Voters in Albany County are also able to cast ballots for their home counties, which Gonzales said is particularly important because of its large population attending higher education institutions.
“Everybody’s time is valuable, so when you enter a polling place and see lines, we certainly do not want to discourage an individual to not exercise the right to vote, so we do everything we can in preparation to make a smooth transition,” Gonzales said.
Though Gonzales said there are few downsides to allowing for absentee voting. However, with a unique set of circumstances in the 2016 presidential election, some voices in the national media questioned whether casting a ballot before Election Day could be considered premature.
Following the release of a controversial recording of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, some GOP leaders across the nation called for him to step down as nominee. Many of Wyoming’s GOP leaders expressed their disapproval of the statements, though none called for another candidate to replace Trump.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is also vulnerable to possible October surprises that could damage her candidacy, as Wikileaks continues releasing information largely from email correspondence that seems to support the suspicions of many critics of the former secretary of state.
Kai Schon, state election director at Wyoming Secretary of State Office, said a presidential candidate withdrawing from the race would be unprecedented, and it’s hard to say how events would pan out. But whatever happens, Schon said all absentee ballots already cast cannot be recast.
“Should anybody withdraw, nothing will change on the ballot,” Schon said. “There would be notification posted (at polling places), but there’s not much recourse. … Obviously, it would be historic if it ever happened.”
Gonzales said she’s seen candidates in Albany County withdraw after absentee ballots have been cast for that candidate.
“Basically, their vote in essence is lost because that candidate will not or cannot accept the appointment,” she said.
But with only 16 percent of absentee ballots mailed or taken home returned as of Friday morning, Gonzales said she thinks many voters still wait until closer to the election.
“I don’t know if there are any disadvantages to getting an absentee ballot early,” she said. “So long as we receive that ballot by 7 p.m. Nov. 8, that’s what’s important to us, so those ballots cast can count.”
Whatever the case with the presidential election, Gonzales said she hopes residents learn what they can about candidates for local state office and cast ballots for those candidates.
“There are so many other races on the ballot that affect our community,” she said. “I hope they don’t just focus on the presidential race.”
Go to the Albany County website at www.co.albany.wy.us for information about polling places, sample ballots, maps of districts and precincts.
“All the tools they will need to become informed and where to vote is available,” Gonzales said.
The elections building, located on the east side of the Albany County Courthouse, 525 Grand Ave., is open weekdays and two Saturdays, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. for registration and to retrieve or cast an absentee ballot prior to Election Day.