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Parties eye early voters - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Parties eye early voters

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

This has been a divisive election when it comes to the economy, women's rights and foreign affairs, but if there is one thing both parties agree on it's early voting.

"We do not know what the numbers are and we will not know until after we finalize the numbers after the election, but anecdotally clerks are telling us there is a big increase," said Jim Condos, D-Vt. Secretary of State.

That's because there has been a big push from both sides of the aisle to get those ballots in before Election Day, as both sides agree early voting stole the show in the 2008 election.

"It was driven by the technology the Obama people used. Republicans have also adopted many of those techniques," said Jack Lindley, the chair of the Vt. Republican Party.

While Vermont voting is anonymous when it comes to party affiliation, once you've voted early there are ways of tracking your allegiance and crossing you off the list.

"We actually get updated lists from the secretary of state's office and from town clerks around the state, and it is the job of our early vote director to actually take that data, enter it into our voter file system and make sure we are continually updating folks around the state," said Ariel Wengroff of the Vt. Democratic Party.

Some 461,000 people have registered to vote in this election-- a record high for Vermont. In 2004, 19.1 percent of voters cast an early ballot in Vermont. That jumped nearly 10 points to 28.9 percent in 2008.

Reporter Molly Smith: Do you see this trend continuing?

Jim Condos: Absolutely.

Molly Smith: Why?

Jim Condos: I think it is a convenience factor.

"It is harder and harder to get out to the polls on Election Day," Wengroff said. "We want to make sure our supporters get in, vote, vote early if they can, so we know we have that vote in and it makes it easier for them."

Convenient for the voter and for the party to gauge their support. They say the campaigns can get ugly toward the end, and early voting helps avoid that frustration factor.

"If we do not have a strong enough program on early absentee efforts and getting out the vote, then people become very much discouraged," Lindley said.

Condos said he does not believe there is a correlation between the early voting numbers and record number of registered voters in the election.

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