35% Of Voters Expected To Vote Early This Year
Early voting is likely to be more popular this year than it has been in any previous election:
With voters in the swing state of Iowa today joining those in two-dozen other states who can already cast their vote for president, the surge in early voting is necessitating a change in campaign strategy, says Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center.
Gronke tells NPR’s Morning Edition that he expects some 35 percent of all votes in the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney to be cast before Election Day on Nov. 6, even though some states this year have limited early voting.
Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., estimates that up to 33 percent of voters cast early ballots in 2008, compared with about 20 percent in 2004 and 15 percent in 2000.
“I think campaigns have to mobilize over a longer period of time,” Gronke says of the changes caused by early voting. “We don’t really know whether those last-minute bombshells that … don’t allow your opponent time to react, we don’t know whether they’re retiming those or not, but you would think that you can’t wait [until] after one-third of the electorate has voted to drop that information.”
Despite some limits on early voting since 2008, Gronke estimates that 35 percent of all votes will be cast before Election Day. “As voters choose this method, they tend to continue, and others flock to it,” he says.
As Gronke explains, the early voting phenomenon varies depending on what part of the country you’re in. It’s particularly popular in the West, where more than half the population will likely vote by mail. In the Southeast, voting habits are divided fairly equally between absentee ballots, early voting, and actual voting on Election Day. It’s still a relatively new phenomenon in the Midwest, with Ohio only its is fourth year of early voting. The one part of the country where early voting hasn’t caught on yet is the Northeast, where most people still wait until Election Day to vote.
Obviously, as Gronke notes, this changes how campaigns operate since it essentially means that you have to have two different Get Out The Vote operations, one for Election Day and one for the early voters. For this election in particular, it suggests that “early” poll results may be important to the extent that the give us an idea of who might be voting early.