There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about early voting and the ground campaigns and how they will affect the election. The consensus appears to be that the Obama campaign has invested more in this area and has a better organized ground campaign than Romney, building on the sophisticated techniques they had employed in 2008.
This Halperin article has some interesting details.
As I read it the argument is:
Parts of the Democratic coalition like young people and minorities have historically had a turn out problem.
Modern data mining techniques can zero in on those voters who support the Democratic candidate but are relatively likely to skip voting. However with the right persusasion these people will vote early since it’s a lot more convenient.
Therefore early voting is not about time-shifting people who will vote for you anyway. It can fundamentally increase your turnout particularly on the Democratic side.
This may be relevant to the issue of minority turnout in this election compared to 2008 which has been discussed here a lot. Minority turnout may well be on the lowish side nationally, while being good enough in the 3-4 states that Obama needs to win because of the ground game.
I also found this nugget from an articlein the Atlantic interesting:
Currently Obama is up, in varying degrees, in each of those states but if that assessment is accurate he is most likely to out-perform his polls in those states where the GOP ground game is weakest: Ohio, Nevada and Iowa. Of course if he wins those states he will almost certainly win the election.
Of course I can only speak of personal experience but I voted yesterday. The reason I voted yesterday was because my son was over visiting and he made it plain that he wasn’t going to have time to vote on election day. So we piled into the car, hit a diner for lunch and went to the nearest early voting place. That was one ballot that would not have been cast. The lines were fairly long and the woman behind me in a wheelchair with her daughter also said that she wouldn’t have had time to vote on election day if they didn’t have this opportunity because it take a while to get her out of the house and her daughter works. So that makes two. So, yes, from what I have personally seen it will increase turnout.