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Candidates' Withdrawals Raise Questions About Early Voting


Today is Super Tuesday, and people in 14 states will vote in primaries. In Texas, though, more than 700,000 Democrats voted early. Some of them voted for candidates who have since dropped out of the race. Stella Chávez with member station KERA in Dallas has this report on regret.

STELLA CHÁVEZ, BYLINE: Among those lined up outside waiting to get inside a Joe Biden Dallas rally were voters like 57-year-old Lee Swift (ph). He voted early for Pete Buttigieg and was disappointed when the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., dropped out of the race on Sunday.

LEE SWIFT: I wish I had waited 'cause I actually thought he was going to wait till after Super Tuesday. But his delegates, I'm sure, will in the second round go for Joe Biden. So - next time, I'm going to be voting on Election Day (laughter), I guarantee you.

CHÁVEZ: Even though his candidate is out of the Texas Democratic primary, he says he plans to do whatever he can to persuade family members and friends to vote for Biden.


JOE BIDEN: Well, hello, Dallas.


CHÁVEZ: Buttigieg and other former rivals, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, endorsed Biden in Dallas Monday.


BETO O'ROURKE: We need somebody who will fight for democracy here and abroad. We need Joe Biden.

CHÁVEZ: Some voters, like Amber Haas (ph), say the early voting system is problematic. The 35-year-old voted early for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and worried she, too, would drop out. She wishes Texas election officials would consider adopting an idea other states have.

AMBER HAAS: What I think we should have is ranked voting. And you vote for your first person. And then if, for some reason, that one drops out, you name that second one and your vote can go to that second one. I think that's the best way to do it.

CHÁVEZ: Political scholars like Rebecca Deen say it's unusual to have candidates drop out right before a major primary like Super Tuesday. Deen's an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington.

REBECCA DEEN: It's completely understandable that some voters would feel very frustrated with the fact that they have already cast their ballots and now the people that they voted for have dropped out. I'm not sure if it means the system's flawed. It's just a quirk of this particular cycle.

CHÁVEZ: Texans have 10 days before Super Tuesday to cast their ballots at special polling stations. The field of Democratic presidential candidates was large this year. Usually, Deen says, candidates stay in.

DEEN: Famously, in 2012 among the Republicans, Senator Ron Paul didn't drop out. And of course, in 2008, Senator Clinton didn't drop out until Senator Obama was the presumptive nominee. That was in June.

CHÁVEZ: Deen says she can't imagine the logistics of allowing people to vote again or change their vote. Some voters, like Pushkala Raman, say they've made peace with their choice, even if their preferred candidate is out of the race. Raman voted for Klobuchar, and her husband for Buttigieg. Still, she wouldn't want the option to change her vote or vote again.

PUSHKALA RAMAN: I don't think that's right. It's going to mess up the system. I went into it fully aware that my candidate might drop out, and so I think it's just part of the democratic process. And I think, you know, that's how things should roll.

CHÁVEZ: Plus, she adds, there are some benefits to voting early. She won't have to leave work to vote today, and she got to beat the crowds on primary day.

For NPR News, I'm Stella Chávez in Dallas.


Stella Chávez