Obama, Romney Teams Vie for Early Voting Edge
Political junkies and undecided voters may have Nov. 6 circled on their calendars in red ink, but in reality, the 2012 election is not 99 days away. Early voting will start as soon as September in some states.
From in-person at designated polling places to absentee that requires no justification, early voting is becoming increasingly popular and accessible across the country. Election experts estimate that a record 40 percent of 2012 voters could cast their ballots before Election Day, up from 33 percent in 2008. Both campaigns eyeing a jubilant November are taking note.
The Obama campaign has some practice in this arena. With significantly more resources at its disposal than rival John McCain in 2008, it made banking early votes a top priority and deployed some smart campaign tactics to that end. Of those who cast early ballots in 2008, 58 percent favored Obama, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken just before Election Day, versus McCain’s 40 percent.
Obama and his surrogates strategically scheduled events near early-voting locations so supporters could easily be herded or driven to those sites. Rally attendees who wore “I Voted” stickers got preferential seating. In addition, the Obama campaign diligently compared the early voter rolls provided by some states and localities with their own lists of supporters so they could devote time and resources only to people they hadn’t yet snagged.
The national trend was corroborated in key swing states, according to data compiled by Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at George Mason University and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Early voters who identified as Democrats in Florida, for example, outnumbered Republicans 45 to 37 percent. In traditionally conservative North Carolina, the imbalance was even more striking, with 51 percent of early voters identifying themselves as Democrats versus 30 percent as Republicans.
And although few states offer demographic breakdowns of early voters, an analysis by the nonprofit liberal group Democracy Corps found that African-Americans and other strong Obama supporters were a larger share of the early vote than the vote on Election Day.