I have given many talks about vote by mail / no excuse absentee voting in the past four years.  One of the most interesting topics is always voter intent–a concept foreign to many Midwesterners and East Coasters (election officials are generally aware from professional contacts).

The first national learning moment on voter intent was probably the contested Minnesota Senate race.  Now it looks like voter intent has hit the big time with the Murkowski announcement in Alaska.  

As I blogged about a few weeks ago, combine voter intent laws with a very lenient post-mark it by election day, a slow postal system in Alaska, a close race in Alaska, and the possibility that control of the Senate may rest with the state, and we have a recipe for a firestorm.

If you’re an election lawyer or election law/admin scholar, it might be good to clear your calendar for two weeks after Nov. 2.

We are working on an update to our 2008 early voting calendar.

The 2010 version should be available at earlyvoting.net soon, but already, we’ve discovered a substantial number of states who have moved up their no-excuse absentee mailing timeline to correspond to the 45 day MOVE ballot transit requirement.

As a consequence, election “day” starts on Monday for millions of American. And about a week later, almost every state with significant numbers of no-excuse voters will have mailed out ballots. Pretty amazing. 

Crossposted at electionupdates.caltech.edu

Voting in the Swedish general election (taking place on Sunday), is in full swing, with early turnout already at record levels. Swedish news source The Local (quoting a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg) provides more evidence of how administrative changes can drive usage:

“Oscarsson belives one reason that more Swedes are voting early is the increased number of locations where people to vote without a voting card, which is automatically mailed to eligible voters several weeks prior to election day.

“If voters forget their cards, which are presented to election officials at polling stations, can instead have a new one printed out on the spot.”

Hat-tip: my brother!

This story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s website caught my eye.  The tone is breathless and the reporter levels a lot of broadsides.  But it reads more like an editorial or commentary than a real news story.  If it has legs, I expect we’ll hear more.

This story in the Post is not a surprise to anyone who follows early voting.

All I can say to the Fenty and Gray forces is that early voting, in as much as we can generalize from other races in other states and localities, is more likely to reshuffle the electorate than change the electorate.

The fact that early voting is higher in Fenty strongholds may mean that Fenty has a better funded, better organized get out the vote operation.  But it may also mean that areas where Fenty has more support are areas with voters who are, on average, whiter, better educated, and have higher incomes.

One important difference, however, is that this is a local race, and we have little empirical data on the turnout effects of early voting in local races.  Many of us–me included–believe the impact is much greater in this contests.  In addition, this is a relatively “high profile” contest, which will should only increase the turnout impact of early voting.

The reports of confrontations at the early voting stations is a cause for concern.  I wonder what election day will bring.  The next week should be interesting.  Hope my friends Alysoun and Rokey at the DC office are hanging on.  It will be a busy week.

Crossposted at http://electionupdates.caltech.edu

Interesting initiative by the Iowa GOP.  I’m not sure why this even merits coverage, it’s legal and it’s probably a good idea.

Richard Borreca of The Honolulu Star Advertiser celebrates “thoughtful and engaged electorate“.

Sounds like good news, right? No, it’s a terribly done story on two grounds. First, “surveying” the electorate by hanging out for an hour outside of polling place is bad practice.  The writer acknowledges that he is using an “admittedly small sample” (it’s not a SAMPLE for crying out loud!).

But worse, generalizing from early in person voters who were interested and engaged enough to vote on the first day of early in person voting to the full electorate is … is … really really bad.

“More accusations made in Alaska Senate primary contest” Anchorage Daily News(August 28)

“Efforts made to skew results” Washington Post “The Fix” (Aug 30)

“Observers watching absentee ballot count closely” Alaska Public Radio (audio) (Aug 27)

“Number of untallied votes rises in Alaska Senate Race” Anchorage Daily News courtesy of Miami Herald / Associated Press (Aug 29)

As I worried last week, the Miller camp has leveled charges of “ballot counting monkey business” in the closely contested Alaskan GOP Senate primary.

The Anchorage Daily News now tallies 23,472 uncounted or “question” ballots.

In another interesting twist, because the list of names of who requested an absentee ballot are public records (as in all states), Miller is also charging that voters who requested absentee ballots are being contacted and asked about their vote.

I am not familiar enough with how the system works in Alaska, but I would not be surprised to learn that candidates are able to get a list of the names of registered voters whose ballots had been counted up to any particular day. This means that a campaign can target specifically those absentee voters who ballots were requested but not yet counted.

This may be another unanticipated consequence of the postmark law.

A colleague in the elections community sent along this observation, which is pertinent to any state that requires ballots only be postmarked, but not delivered by Election Day.

They are sitting in post offices or they’re in postal bags somewhere.

What if somebody, who already knows the Murkowski/Miller race is close, wanted to try and affect the outcome of the election and decided not to deliver a batch of ballots or discarded them?

Allowing timely postmarked ballots adds a security threat to the election when there are ballots out there floating around and elections officials don’t even know where they are. It also adds an extra difficult issue of what to do when the postmark is unreadable or is totally missing.

Check your next stack of mail. There are almost always some items in there missing a postmark.

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