Early Voting: What Does It Mean?


Easily the funniest Simpson’s bit in more than a decade: Homer tries to vote for Obama on a rigged voting machine.  (Click on the image above and hit the YouTube link.)

Michael P. McDonald has posted the numbers for early voting in the midterms.  It’s a complex situation with lots of variables, but the Democrats seem to enjoy the edge for those opting to vote early, which may be a good sign for overall voter turnout.  I have seen suggestions that this phenomenon may be the Obama effect: his campaigning has been strong enough that he’s put people in the mood to vote early; particularly because, as we know, long lines seem always to occur exclusively in Democratic districts on election day, and that people of color are more susceptible to some form of harassment by local and state police when they try to get to the polls.  As McDonald points out, this does not necessarily mean that Democrats will prevail on election day, but that it might not be the bloodletting that has Republicans smacking their lips.

A sample from McDonald’s article:

We appear to have entered a new era of early voting where Democrats are the ones more likely to vote early. The 2010 early voting numbers are better for Democrats than 2006 but are better for Republicans than 2008. Not surprisingly, Democrats are comparing the current numbers to 2006 while Republicans are comparing to 2008. We are likely somewhere in-between 2006 and 2008, but we do not know by how much, which leaves ample room for both parties to spin.

If voting behavior changed in 2010, a hanging question is why? Why would Democrats now be of the type more likely to vote early? I offer two plausible explanations. First, that Democrats learned about early voting options in their state and like using it. This may be particularly true for states that offer in-person early voting at special polling places, since there is plenty of evidence that this is the favored voting method for Democrats. Second, that Democrats developed early voter mobilization organizations in 2008 that they are carrying forward to 2010. I suspect both explanations contribute to the story.

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