Jeff Zeleny of the NY Times had a nice piece on early voting yesterday, and how the rise of new balloting methods have altered political campaigns.

I notice that no academics were quoted in the piece, including of course, me! I think this is actually an accomplishment – while I have been predicting these changes to campaign strategy for years, there have been little hard data, or even anecdotes, illustrating the change.

Zeleny’s story, rather than relying on speculative quotes from scholars like myself, relies on quotes from candidates, party officials, and the like.  This is good – early voting has gone mainstream.  

And ironically, post-2010 and especially post-2012 is finally the time when academics will be able to finally weigh in with solid empirical data about the impact of early campaigns on voter behavior.  

Crossposted at


Thad Hall notes at Election Updates the Alaska statute regarding state law on rules for counting ballots, including write-ins.

I don’t agree with Thad, however, that the key question here is whether the oval is filled in properly. The law specifies that nearly any mark (“making “X” marks, diagonal, horizontal, or vertical marks, solid marks, stars, circles, asterisks, checks, or plus signs that are clearly spaced in the oval opposite the name of the candidate”) in the oval will count.

I have two reactions to Thad’s post. First, anyone taking the time to write in some variant of Lisa Murkowski would be likely to be able to make a mark in the oval (and one expects that the Murkowski campaign will go to great lengths to educate voters about the procedure).

Second, after Franken v. Coleman, can we actually be sure how a state or federal court will determine voter intent if there is a write-in but no mark in the oval? Maybe I can convince Ned Foley to weigh in…

This Sunday’s NYT ramped up the newspaper’s midterm election coverage, including a story highlighting a wave of negative advertising being put out by Democrats in tight races.

As we’ve argued in the past, the longer “Election Day” created by early voting is likely to change campaigns in a number of ways, including bringing forward the blitz of negative advertising that was traditionally reserved for later in the cycle:

Opposition research and attack advertising are used in almost every election, but these biting ads are coming far earlier than ever before, according to party strategists. The campaign has intensified in the last two weeks as early voting begins in several states and as vulnerable incumbents try to fight off an onslaught of influences by outside groups.

Update: new, improved, and available in PDF form. We’ve also provided a link to our Excel dataset. Check it out

We’ve just posted our early and absentee voting calendar for the 2010 general election. As Paul has noted, the election has already arrived in many states, with absentee ballots being delivered now in nearly half of America’s states.

The calendar itself is a work-in-progress: if you notice any glitches or errors – or just have comments – we’d love to hear from you.

It’s not readily printable yet – short of taking a screen capture – but we’ll be producing a true hard copy version as soon as possible, and that will be available at the same address.

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 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

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

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.

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