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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A bill proposed for the next legislative session would allow early voting to make casting ballots more convenient and increase turnout.
The measure by state Rep. Doug Aagard, R-Kaysville, would allow voting up to 14 days before Election Day.
"I want to make voting more user-friendly," Aagard said. "People walk away (from polling places) when they get tied up in long lines. Early voting cuts down on that possibility."
The state could also benefit financially from early voting because smaller crowds at polling places would mean less need to continually purchase new electronic election equipment, Aagard said.
The state will spend about $25 million to purchase 7,500 touch-screen voting machines to comply with federal regulations. The machines are slated to be used statewide in the June 2006 primary election.
Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert said early voting could enable the state to avoid purchasing additional touch screen voting machines for up to 20 years.
"Early voting gives people an opportunity to cast votes at different times, he said. "Consequently, you can handle voters with fewer machines."
In addition, early voting may require political candidates to alter the timing of campaign strategies and may prevent them from engaging in last-minute mudslinging with opponents, Herbert said.
Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, supports early voting, but added it may make it more difficult for the state to distribute information on complicated ballot initiatives in a timely manner.
"I like the idea of early voting because it promotes democracy a little better and it gives people a chance to cast their ballots without being rushed," said Hansen, who is studying the issue.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)