Cheney's voting record in Dallas County, Texas revealed

Friday, September 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN – Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney skipped 14 of 16 elections since registering to vote in Dallas County in late 1995 – including the March primary in which he could have cast his vote for his future running mate, George W. Bush.

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That 2-for-16 voting history compares with the five-for-six election participation rate of his Democratic rival Sen. Joe Lieberman over the same period in Connecticut.

Mr. Cheney, campaigning Thursday in Maine, declined requests for an interview about his voting record.

Cheney spokesman Dirk Vande Beek said: "He does think that voting is important. He did it whenever he could.

"Except for the period of time the secretary was traveling overseas on business for Halliburton [the oilfield services company that Mr. Cheney headed], he always voted."

But even extended absences from the country would not normally bar a Texan from voting, experts said. State election law includes generous provisions allowing absentee and advance voting for those who cannot get to the polls on Election Day. Records in Austin show that Mr. Bush has used those measures to vote in advance in most of the 18 elections held since he became governor.

Dallas County records show that Mr. Cheney registered to vote in the state in December 1995 after moving to Highland Park from the Washington, D.C., area as the new chief executive officer of Halliburton Co.

The elections in which he took part were the November 1996 presidential election and the November 1998 race for governor and other state and local offices.

To avoid a constitutional conflict with running mates from the same state, Mr. Cheney changed his voter registration to his home in Wyoming in July, days before being tapped as Mr. Bush's running mate. He voted in the subsequent GOP presidential primary there.

"Certainly, people would expect those seeking to lead them would take the time to vote," said Douglas Hattaway, a spokesman for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. "But I guess it's hard when you're a busy oil company executive. I suppose he had other priorities."

The number of local, state and national elections each year varies widely by jurisdiction, according to local laws and whether officials merge multiple issues onto the same ballot.

Some experts said Mr. Cheney's voting reflects that state and local governments are holding too many elections.

"On one level, every citizen should try to vote whenever they have the opportunity," said Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. But "a lot of those elections should have been held during state or national primaries. Holding them on off days [as many cities and schools do] is almost designed to reduce participation."

The 14 elections Mr. Cheney skipped in Dallas County were the presidential and state primaries, primary runoffs and Highland Park city elections in 1996; two state constitutional amendment votes in 1997; a Highland Park school board vote, a Highland Park city election, a state primary and primary runoffs in 1998; a hotly contested Highland Park school bond election and a constitutional amendment vote in 1999; and this year's primary and primary runoffs.

Mr. Cheney was registered in Casper, Wyo., from 1978 until he moved to Dallas – a period that includes his 21 years in Congress and his tenure as defense secretary from 1989 to 1993. Only records of federal elections, not state or local ballots, are available for Wyoming in those years. Those show that Mr. Cheney voted in every federal primary and general election from 1978 to 1994.

Mr. Gans said the record suggests that Mr. Cheney, once out of office, joined a bulk of Americans who only vote in the "big" elections. "Not voting in an uncontested primary is not a crime," he said.

Records in New Haven, Conn., show that Mr. Lieberman voted in all but one of six elections there since December 1995, missing a November 1997 mayoral contest. Records were not available before 1995.

Voter logs in Austin and Dallas show that since 1988, Mr. Bush has voted in 38 of 39 elections, missing only the 1992 primary. Mr. Gore has not missed any of the 16 elections since 1972 in his hometown of Carthage, Tenn.

Staff writer Todd J. Gillman contributed to this report.