This Is How Early Voting Became a Thing

Time: Some people who couldn’t vote on Election Day were lying in order to get absentee ballots.

On Monday, six states started offering early in-person voting, and by week’s end, 12 states plus the District of Columbia will have rolled out early voting. The percentage of voters who cast ballots early is about a third, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

But how did early voting become a thing?

The precursor to the idea was absentee voting, which essentially allows people to vote early and from afar if they aren’t going to be available on Election Day. NCSL’s Wendy Underhill says the earliest evidence the organization could find was “a list of eligible persons [who] were permitted to vote before Election Day” when Louisiana established “in-person absentee voting” in 1921.  Read more.

Little-known change to Wisconsin voting law could affect voters who plan to mail in absentee ballots this November

Wisconsin State Journal: Voters who mail in their absentee ballots have an earlier deadline to do so this year under a new state law that took effect last month.

Under the law the absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, in order to count. Previously, mail-in absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day and received by a clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on the next Friday.

The new law is one of a handful of changes to voting rules that could trip up some of the half-million to a million people in the state who only turn out to vote once every four years for presidential elections.

The most substantial change for them will be the new voter ID requirement, which critics fear will cause long lines on Election Day and result in some eligible voters being turned away at the polls. Supporters say the requirement will prevent voter fraud, though incidents of illegal voter impersonation are exceptionally rare.

The new deadline for absentee ballots could catch the most stalwart voters by surprise because it wasn’t in effect during the August primary. The law was enacted in March, but it wasn’t set to take effect until September.  Read more.

For many Americans, Election Day is already here

Pew Research Center: Election Day is less than three weeks away, but for millions of Americans it’s already arrived. More than 4 million voters already have cast early, absentee and mail-in ballots, and if the trend of recent presidential election cycles continues, the number of people voting in such nontraditional ways could top 50 million by the time all the votes are counted.

In 2012, more than 46 million voters – almost 36% of the total – cast ballots in some manner other than at a traditional polling place on Election Day, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of state and federal election data. That figure includes 23.3 million people who cast civilian or military absentee ballots, 16.9 million who voted early (that is, in person during a specific period leading up to Election Day) and 6.3 million who mailed in their ballots.

The share of the total electorate that such nontraditional voting represents has grown rapidly over the past few election cycles. In 2004, according to our analysis, about 22% of the total vote was nontraditional; by 2008, nearly a third was.  Read more.

NPR: A Complete Guide To Early And Absentee Voting

NPR: For those who can’t wait to get this election over with, there’s good news — early voting is starting.

The bad news: That only applies to you if you live in one of 37 states that offer some kind of early voting (in person, absentee or by mail) without an excuse needed.

More than 1 in 3 people is expected to cast a ballot early this year. On Friday, voters in Minnesota and South Dakota can start turning in absentee ballots. On Saturday, they can do so in Vermont, and ballots will go out in New Jersey.

Voters have already had the chance to go to the polls in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., which started holding early in-person voting Monday. (In Wisconsin, each municipality and county sets its early voting dates.)

Over the next three weeks, voters in a third of the country will already be able to vote.  Read more.

Gaming the Six-Week Election Day

Bloomberg NewsEarly voting has transformed political campaigning. Here’s how it may play out in Iowa, Nevada, and North Carolina.

Election Day starts this week. Beginning on Sept. 23, any Minnesotan can go to a local election office and complete an absentee ballot. The following Thursday, voters in neighboring Iowa have the same opportunity. Between Oct. 20-24, North Carolina, Nevada, and Florida get in the game. In Colorado, the entire election will be conducted by mail ballot. By the constitutionally mandated first Tuesday after a Monday in November, more than one-third of Americans will have already voted for president.

There are still battleground states that make no provision for early voting—Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Hampshire stand out for their old-fashioned ways—but in those that do it has created a new kind of electoral arms race. Early voting is a particular gift to well-organized, well-funded campaigns, which can extend their turnout operations across as long as six weeks, locking down precise factions of the electorate in domino-like fashion, and sequence their persuasion efforts with a clear view of who has yet to vote. Building on the ground-game innovations of President Barack Obama’s two successful efforts, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has reshuffled its entire org chart with the election timetable in mind, grouping early-voting states together so that get-out-the-vote efforts can happen on an accelerated, exacting schedule.

The extended calendar poses an array of new tactical questions: Does the campaign push its most committed supporters to cast ballots as soon as possible, so that they are banked early and the campaign can shift to mobilizing less likely voters as Election Day approaches? Or do they assume that habitual voters will get around to it on their own timetable, and use the early period to expand efforts focused on those who need an extra nudge to turn out? Caching early votes has one other benefit: it limits the risk that an October surprise could swing one’s supporters away, or keep fickle voters home.  Read more.

Questions about postal voting

Election Updates: Since the origins of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project in 2000, the VTP has noted a number of concerns about postal voting.  Our original report in 2001 noted that postal voting represents clear tradeoffs, with benefits including convenience, but with potential risks, especially regarding the reliability and security of balloting by mail.

Our most recent report reiterated these same concerns, but added another, as there is new research indicating that many of the reductions in residual votes (a key measure of voting system reliability and accuracy) are at risk because of the increase in postal voting. One of these papers studies residual votes in California (“Voting Technology, Vote-by-Mail, and Residual Votes in California, 1990-2010”). The other is a national-level study, “Losing Votes by Mail.” There is an important signal in the residual vote data from recent elections, increased postal voting is associated with increased residual votes.

Now comes word of a new concern about the reliability of postal voting. Upcoming Austrian elections might be postponed due to faulty glue used in the ballot envelopes. This video helps explain the problem.  Watch the video.

How do Americans who live abroad vote?

Mother Nature Network: If you look at the rest of the developed world, voter turnout in the United States is low, according to the Pew Research Center. Among 35 of its closest peers, the U.S. ranks 31st in voter turnout, according to a graph that charts voting data from around the world. That’s not so great. Countries like Turkey, Belgium and Australia all rank at the top of the list — but voting in those places is compulsory.

But to increase participation, we could make it easier to register to vote. Currently only about 65 percent of the people who are able to vote in the U.S. are even registered. Although there is good news: of those who are registered, about 84 percent get to the polls.

One notable exception to those stats is Americans who live (or are traveling) abroad. Only about 12 percent of that group (the size of which isn’t available, but it’s estimated to be between 2 and 8 million) participate in elections. One reason for that very low number is that it’s notoriously difficult to register to vote while abroad, and to get the needed paperwork on time (and then return it). Another reason is that if you are living outside the U.S., you might not be as connected to and up-to-date on American elections.  Read more.

Postal Service Urges Voters to Mail Ballots Early

USPS: Millions of ballots are expected to be mailed during the election season this fall, and the U.S. Postal Service is encouraging voters to mail early.

With voting beginning in some states in September and continuing through early November, all individuals casting their ballots through the U.S. Mail are asked to send completed absentee ballots back at least one week in advance of their state deadlines to ensure the safe, timely delivery of their vote.

“The U.S. Mail serves as a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens to participate in the electoral process, said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman. “Having worked closely with state election officials throughout the last year, the Postal Service is fully prepared to deliver election and political mail in a timely manner.”

The Postal Service offers the following suggestions for voters this fall:

  • Voters should request ballots be sent from their local jurisdiction with sufficient time to receive, complete and return them a week before the deadline.
  • Voters are strongly encouraged to check with their local election officials for rules pertaining to their jurisdiction.
  • Voters should visit their states’ website to find out the locations of election offices and to get information about voting by mail.

Additional information can be found at usps.com/electionmail.  Read more.

Is convenience subverting election process?

Herald Tribune: No one opens a business until sufficient plans have been made.

A pilot won’t take off until the pre-check has been completed.

Surgery doesn’t start until all the tests are confirmed.

In each of these cases, careful preparation and data collection precede the eventual action. That just makes good sense. Once an action is taken, it can’t be undone.

Today’s column is a combination of serious and silly ideas. Serious because the activity described has a profound impact on all of us. Silly because the exaggerations are so broad.

Nationally and locally we’re faced with an activity that has serious consequences. And that activity is made easy and convenient for everyone through changes in a governmental process — the expanding practice of early voting.

This is not a political piece. It’s an exploration piece. Please stay with me.

Election Day — remember when everyone (except those with “good reason”) voted on the same day? Voters marked a piece of paper that other people then read, recorded, and counted.

It was time-consuming, but it worked. Many voters stayed up late that night to find out who won!

 The current official Election Day is still two months away, but many people have already cast their ballots — and many more will do so during the weeks ahead.

That means they are taking action before all the data are in! No one knows what might be discovered about candidates in the next two months. That’s true for both candidates. Read more.

Why wait? Vote early.

Martinsville Bulletin: If you are tired of this election season and would like to get it over with, chances are you can do your part a little early.

Virginia is not one of the 15 states where most voters cast ballots prior to Election Day, but many Virginians can and do choose to vote early absentee.

If you can’t wait for Nov. 8 and you qualify to vote absentee, residents can do that at local registrars offices as soon as the morning of Friday, Sept. 23.

Voting absentee in person can take less time than waiting in lines at the polls on Election Day, often just 10 to 15 minutes at most, according to Charlottesville voter registrar Rosanna Bencoach.

“The absolute easiest way is to come down to your local voter registrar’s office,” she said. “That way you know your ballot has been counted and nothing can change and you know it’s done.”

Virginia does not have “no excuses” early voting but does have 19 reasons for registered voters to cast a ballot early if they so choose.  Read more.