Monday, April 28, 2008

NC Early Voting Cements Obama Advantage

North Carolina now has early voting, like many other states (but alas, not us Virginians, stuck in our agrarian past). Voters are taking advantage in the Tar Heel state, with 100,000 ballots already cast in the upcoming Democratic primary according to this story from the Raleigh newspaper.

We think that's an advantage for Obama, who has had a large lead in NC polls. It also gives him yet another good reason to spurn Hillary's call for a NC debate: a lot of people have already voted.

NC is certainly not the first state this year to have widespread early voting. The spread of this phenomenon, however, does pose challenges to candidates for elective office--not just for President, but for everything, because it changes the campaign dynamic.

Just as an example, the NC Republican Party is wasting it's money running ads this week criticizing Democratic ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright--ads that the national GOP, McCain and NC Sen. Libby Dole are all running away from. But if large numbers of voters have already cast their ballots, the impact of television ads late in a campaign is clearly mitigated.

We like the concept of early voting and hope it will continue to spread. Most people have their minds firmly made up long before election day, and there's no need to make voters stand in line on a single day, or find time on a Tuesday that may be inconvenient, to cast their ballots.

It's also a tremendous boon to any campaign that's really got it's act together in terms of getting out the vote. Many campaigns have all kinds of volunteers who are underutilized. As election day grows closer, they are typically out canvassing neighborhoods, making telephone calls and littering public rights of way with ineffective yard signs. What if, instead, they were actually ferrying voters to the polls for two whole weeks, instead of on just one day? Far better use of resources.

The early voting phenomenon is clearly worth watching. Some good young political scientists will do well to research the issue and publish some useful data on how its working out.

No comments: