Is it legal and ethical for campaigns to encourage absentee voting?

I got a call from George W. Bush this morning. Okay, it wasn’t actually him, it was a recording of him. I’m a registeted Democrat but I was at one time a registered Republican. I guess that’s why I got the call. I was in the shower when the phone rang so I didn’t answer it and it was transferred to voicemail. Because it was a recorded message the voicemail system didn’t catch the first part of it. Here’s the part that was recorded:

They are clearly actively encouraging people to vote absentee. In Pennsylvania, where I live, you can only vote absentee for a specific list of reasons. It seems to me that they are encouraging people to attempt to vote absentee for other than the acceptable reasons. Is it legal for them to do so? Is it ethical? (Yeah, I know, like that matters in American politics.) Are the Democrats doing anything similar? Has this been done in past elections? I seem to recall hearing that the Republicans did it in Florida in 2000.

It may very well be that the first part of the call was “If you’re going to be out of the country setting up a new sweatshop this election day, please remember to get an absentee ballot for the sake of Our Freedom.”

Otherwise, I’d find it ironic that the GOP is pushing for their likely voters to request absentee ballots, given the confidence that the right has expressed in Diebold, et al.

C’mon, this election is almost entirely going to fall on turnout. Every bit they can increase their base getting to vote is all to the good.

I don’t see anything wrong with a ‘get out the vote’ campaign given the even split in the electorate.

It isn’t a question of “get out the vote” campaigns. There’s nothing wrong with those. It’s a question of the manner in which they vote. It’s a question of encouraging them to vote in ways that at are odds with state law. But, if the Republicans can get away with it, then maybe the Democrats should do it also. That would at least somewhat alleviate the fears about voting machines, voter intimidation at the polls, etc.

I don’t have much to add except that I got the same call. I thought it was strange that the message made no mention of why I should get an absentee ballot.

Yes, but Bush et al. may (rightly) believe that in the next 10-14 days, their poll numbers are going to be as high as they’re going to get (last week of Swift Boat fallout, 5% pt. convention bump) until the election, and getting as many people as possible to vote now locks that population in for them.

Just out of curiousity, are you a registered Republican?

Why, it’s to make sure your vote counts, of course.

Nope. I’m ridiculously liberal, so I have no idea why they would call me. I sent them an email asking for an explanation.

I recieved my call today also. I am also not a registered republican.

To me it sounds as if they know the new voting machines are a bit off and want to make sure that every republican vote gets counted, though if anybody else has a theory why I’d be glad to hear it. Tin foil hats make me itch.

I fully intend to vote absentee in the November general election, because I’m a little uncomfortable with the fact that our new electronic voting machines produce no verifiable paper trail for individual votes. Here in Florida, you don’t need any reason to vote absentee, and there are no restrictions on doing so.

So, including me, that’s at least 3 non-Republican’s who’ve gotten the call. One in PA, one in MN, and one in wherever Harborwolf resides. (Harborwolf, mind if I ask what state you’re in?)
Either they need to get new phone lists or they’re using some tactic that’s way to clever for me to imagine. quelquechose, if you get a response to your email (which I doubt you will), would you mind posting it here?
I wonder if we’ll actually receive the forms in the mail? If the addresses on their lists are up to date then I guess we will.
I may start a poll thread asking for people who received the call to post their state and party affiliation.

George W. Bush hasn’t rung me yet (perhaps he plans to ring me tomorrow, when he visits my city), but he has sent me a nice photo of himself and Laura, thanking me for helping in their campaign. Note: Not only have I never helped in any Republican campaign, but I’m not a registered voter, since I’m not a US citizen.

Back when I was living in another country, one thing that political parties tried to do was maximise the absentee vote, but only for people who had legitimate reasons (like being sick, unable to leave home, or out of the state on election day. Provided that the Pubs are just trying to maximise the legitimate absentee vote, it’s a laudable way of campaigning. However, if it’s because there may be problems with voting in person, they should get those problems fixed.

(And I’d also hope that their opponents challenge any improper absentee votes, if they can.)

A woman I know, who is definitely a non-Republican and a strong Kerry supporter, received a nice letter thanking her for her support of George W. Bush and asking for a donation. She filled in $0.00 on the enclosed form and returned it in the enclosed postage-paid envelope. In return for her zero dollar donation she received a large glossy of Bush that was autographed to her personally. :confused:

So far I haven’t heard anything back, but if I do I’ll post it. If they don’t respond within a few days I’ll send another email.

I got a photo a while back too, though I don’t remember what the letter with it said. A friend of mine also got a “poll” from the GOP that thanked for his support, even though he had never given any and plans to vote for Kerry.

Maybe they wanna lock in your vote now just in case something happens before Nov. 2 that would change a Bushie’s vote?

That’s what I thought when I first heard about this. If they get your vote now, they don’t have to worry about holding on to it for the next two months.

I’m in battleground Ohio and I haven’t gotten a call yet. However, I figure the Bush campaign is doing as well as it has since the capture of Saddam. They seem to be doing better than they have recently in PA, MN, WI, OH, and MO. Since Bush is making a lot of stops in the midwest, the convention, and the peak of the Swift Boat ads, Bush figures he’ll try to lock as many of the votes in as possible.

I still think the campaign begins after Labor Day. I certainly hope that Kerry fights back. We’ll see how the August jobs report looks like on Friday. That will be the next to last jobs report before the election. A bad jobs report and a stock market drop will hurt the Bush campaign over the holiday weekend.

Except that, AFAIK, you can always cancel your absentee ballot by physically showing up on election day and voting. So if you changed your mind you could change your vote. Of course, most people probably wouldn’t bother.

If anyone’s interested, I received the absentee ballot application today. It’s a tearout form embedded in a typical campaign ad for Bush with misleading “facts” about Bush and Kerry that of course make Bush look better to anybody who doesn’t bother to read between the lines. It was addressed to me personally (except that they left out the apartment #) and the application form is addressed to the local county board of elections. Unfortunately it isn’t postage prepaid or I might apply for a ballot for Mickey Mouse at 123 Disney Street or something. (I keed - I keed) :slight_smile:
It clearly lists the two reasons for which you are allowed to vote absentee: (Note that this is for Pennsylvania)

A: Your duties, occupation, or business require you to be absent from your municipality on election day.


B: Due to an illness or disability.

Both reasons require your signature, and illness/disability requires a Physician’s name, address, and phone number.
So only the small percentage who meet those conditions (and those willing to perjure themselves) will actually use the form.
I have to wonder if they really believe that the small number of people who are elegible (and will actually bother) are worth the expense of all those phone calls and mass mailings! Am I being overly suspicious if I suspect that they are counting on large numbers of people being willing to perjure themselves? (I’m assuming it’s perjury. Maybe one of our SDMB lawyers can enlighten me if I’m wrong.)

<i>Except that, AFAIK, you can always cancel your absentee ballot by physically showing up on election day and voting. So if you changed your mind you could change your vote. Of course, most people probably wouldn’t bother.</i>

I don’t think this works. In my state, if you show up to vote and are listed as someone who recieved an absentee ballot, you have to either surrender the absentee ballot on the spot, or sign an affidavit indicating that it was lost, destroyed, or never received. And it still requires an okay from the local clerk.

The problem with saying “Oh, cancel out my other one!” is that it may have already been entered into the vote counting system. I am sure procedures vary, but where I live absentee ballots are either processed by election workers throughout the day (when they can dedicate the staff to them) or by the local clerk. During processing, after the ballot is verified as being from the legitimate person to whom it was issued, all identifiers are removed from the ballot. We even shuffle them before putting them in the machine so that there is no connection between the ballot and the envelop it came in. There is no way to go and pull the absentee ballot of a person who changed his or her mind.

This raises another question, for me. I don’t know how an absentee voter has any assurance his or her vote was counted. Someone could fail to process it. It could be lost in the mail. How do you know? I feel that absentee voting is the weak spot in the voting system, for all its benefits as being convenient.