Why are so many Americans voting early? Has this happened before?

From www.fivethirtyeight.com:

I guess the election implications are obvious; if these numbers are true, Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States, since the loss of Colorado is a backbreaker for Sen. McCain. Absent a miracle, he has lost too many Bush states to win.

But that’s not a huge surprise. What absolutely blows my mind is that OVER HALF THE POPULATION voted early. I find that absolutely mind-boggling. I thought that maybe five to ten percent of people did advance voting; I always assumed it was just something you did if you knew you were going to be out of town or had some big thing going on on election day.

GENERAL QUESTION: Has this ever happened before? Are these early turnout numbers typical of these states?

FOLLOWUP, POSSIBLY A SEMI-DEBATE: If this hasn’t happened before, why are people in such a rush to vote now? It’s not going to speed up the Constitutionally mandated process.

Every time I see the long early voter lines on the news I realize I might have made a big mistake not requesting an absentee ballot. If early voting results in 3 to 5 hour waits, imagine what voting on election day will bring. I’d guess that the possibility and/or fear of long lines is the main reasons.

Obama and the Democratic Party are pushing early voting in order to increase Democratic turnout.

IM semi-informed O,

  1. The great controversy in 2000 and successive elections has publicized the fact that this option is available. More people know about it, thus more take advantage of it.
  2. I believe that more states have made it easier to vote early.

As a Colorado resident, I can tell you that during the 2006 election (at least, here in Denver) there were some major snafus and, because of machines having problems early in the day, it led to a huge wait (with huge lines) later on election day. People were still lined up with long waits when the polls closed. This may also have been partly because they decided to do a bunch of voting places and you could choose which one to go to (rather than having to vote at your designated polling place).

This year, all the ballots are paper and we have the option of both absentee/mail-in ballots and early voting, and I chose to vote early - partly because I think it will leave space for someone else to vote on election day, and partly because I knew I wouldn’t have to wait for hours in line. The Superhero filled out a mail-in ballot and dropped it off at one of the designated locations. The Dems here have made a big push for people to vote early (it was mentioned by several speakers at the Obama rally last weekend) and I think it’s a good idea, because it gives people more time to vote and more options rather than having to fit (possibly) hours of waiting in line into a workday.

IIRC, about 22% of the voters voted early in 2004. The predictions this year are for 30-35% of total votes to be cast early. Since about one-third of the states still don’t have early voting, that implies that a much higher percentage must do so in the states that allow it to make the overall numbers work.

Early voting has already become popular in those states that allowed it, and more do so every year. The trend has been upward and it’s no surprise that it’s up even farther this year with the greater interest and numbers of voters.

There’s a huge difference between absentee ballots and early voting. The number of people casting absentee ballots by mail were small. Early voting is just voting, in the same places (usually: some states may differ) and on the same voting machines as election day voting. Essentially, instead of limiting voting to, say, 12 hours on one day, it expands it to hundreds of hours over weeks. No wonder so many people take advantage of the convenience.

I’m more inclined to argue that the unexpectedly huge turnouts for primaries (and consequent enormous lines and wait times) have convinced people that it would be better to vote early and avoid the election day rush. It was certainly my motivation.

I wonder though, how representative the early-voters are of the entire population. It may be the case that the (self-selecting) early voters are not a representative subset, and that (just speculation) the older, more conservative crowd may be set in their ways and show up on election day as usual - causing a late swing the other way.

I’d take it with a grain of salt, like election day results (candidate x has y lead with z% reporting). It certainly looks like a win, but until we cross a certain point no victory is called, because it could still go the other way.

Also, why discourage your own voters from voting? (i.e. We have it in the bag, and lines are long…so why bother to show up unless you oppose us, in which case you better get off your duff and vote).

I’ve read analyses that said this year the pattern of voting has changed. In the past it was usually older people who voted consistently for one party who felt that it didn’t matter when they voted because they were highly unlikely to change their minds at the last minutes. This year a higher percentage of new and enthusiastic voters are getting to the polls early.

The only sure prediction for this election is that we’ll see many new patterns and unexpected variations from the past.

I don’t see the difference as “huge” - either way, you are casting your vote early, whether by walking into a polling place or mailing it in.

“usually” may be stretching it, too. Summary from a US Today article:

The “no excuse” absentee voting presumably includes CA which has been pushing mail-in voting for some time, and allows you to become a “permanent mail-in voter”. The trend being what it is, I suspect more states will follow Oregon, too. OR has gone entirely to mail-in voting and done away with polling places. Saves the state a good deal of money not to operate them.

I didn’t actually “mail in” my ballot. I dropped it off at city hall. One thing that they still haven’t managed in CA - the mail-in ballot is on cardboard rather than paper, which fits in an oversize envelope, and requires extra postage. It seems to me they could make the thing small enough to mail with regular first class postage, or give you a prepaid envelope and still have it be cheaper than running polling places.

I believe older voters are the most likely to use early voting methods.

I see a potential problem with voters voting absentee in states which require an excuse; if there’s a large increase in absentee voting, maybe somebody will get the idea that many of these folks didn’t need to vote absentee (i.e. made up an excuse) and challenge them.

[/tinfoil hat]

If an election is overturned because of successful challenges to the necessity of absentee ballots there will be a revolt.

My question about early voting is how the early votes are counted. Do they keep a running tally, making their work easier on election day, or do they simply wait until election day, until all the votes are in, to start counting and tabulating?

My office is next door to the downtown building where they’re having early voting. The line was curled around the inside of the building, out the door, and about half-way around the block. The wait seemed long, especially since from my desk I could see the same kid with a guitar in line for quite some time, maybe a couple of hours spent to move a half-block? Something like that. Early voting seems such a huge hit here (Bloomington, IN) that I seriously think the polls are going to be largely deserted on Tuesday…

It might be different in your state, but I believe the number of early voting polling locations is severely limited in most places compared to how many will be open on Election Day. So paradoxically, many of the people who went for early voting might have stood in line longer than they needed to. :slight_smile:

Other threads have asked that question, and the answer has been they wait until Election Day to do official counting of all the votes cast by every method.

I wouldn’t be surprised.

*** Ponder

I don’t know about other states or what the controlling law is… but here in Colorado the election officials can start counting votes up to 10 days before the election. But they cannot disclose any results until after the polls close. This is from the Rocky Mountain News:

I am registered as a mail-in only voter and found it to be quite pleasant this year. I spent several hours looking positions etc. with ballot in hand. When I was done I dropped it at the DMV during lunch. No muss, no fuss.

That said the line for the on-site early voters looked to be at least an hour long. I have never seen a line that long in Jefferson County before. So I’ll be interested in seeing if this due to a record turnout overall or just a record early turn out.

The difference is that absentee ballots are more difficult than early voting. Instead of going to a city hall or county building to pick up and drop off a form, early voting allows people to vote more conveniently at a great many more locations. The tenfold increase in voters using the system suggests that most people find the difference considerable.

I wonder this as well. When we see the results on election night, for, in your case, Indiana, and we see that 11% (101 of 1001) precients reporting, does that include the early vote or is the early vote tacked on at the end?

As I said in another thread, in California the early vote, which is the same as the absentee ballot vote, is counted immediately after the polls close, and are the first vote totals reported.


Early voting is an open invitation to fraud. For instance, I travel and am still registered in to vote in two different states.

If I wanted to I could voted in one state early, then voted in Illinois on Tuesday. No one would know.

Also if they don’t immediately count the votes, eventually votes are gonna get lost or stolen.

Even if fraud isn’t the motovation, if someone were to steal votes, how could you possible replace those votes? What if someone just didn’t like early voting as a concept and did it to spoil the system.

I can see down the road, this won’t last long because the fraud opportunities are too great AND easy especially in areas like NY where four states CN, NY, NJ and PA are within a quick drive of each other.

You’d need to prove residence to early vote in more than one location. Your case is unique in that you moved from one state to another and the election board in one state may not have removed you from the rolls (or may have; unless you try to vote, you won’t know).

There’s little point in voting in multiple states. There are so many people voting for President (the only nationwide elected office) that four votes in four states aren’t going to matter (also, since CT, NY, NJ, and PA usually vote Democratic, there’s not need for it).

Vote fraud in the past has always been limited to a single area – usually a city or election district. People did vote multiple times, but the more common tactic would be to just “lose” votes for your challengers. You can’t guarantee a result by fixing individual votes; you need to fix them by the gross or more.