In Ohio, early voting already is in full swing. Voters here will have more than a month before Election Day to cast their ballots. It’s one of the reasons why the Obama and Romney campaigns have been so active here recently, with visits from the candidates and their surrogates, lots of TV ads, and extensive “ground games” and door-knocking efforts. (For an interesting Cleveland Plain Dealer article that attempts to assess the relative strength of the Romney and Obama “ground games” in Ohio, see here.)
According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, in 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohioans cases either early “in person” ballots or traditional mail-in absentee ballots. That’s about 30 percent of the 5.77 million votes cast overall in Ohio in 2008. The conventional wisdom is that early voting favors Democratic candidates, because Democrats tend to have jobs that cause them to work odd hours. (How would anyone test that little bit of CW, by the way?) Given the size of the “early voting” bloc, is there any wonder that the campaigns are trying to make sure that they maintain a strong presence in Ohio throughout the early voting period, in hopes of catching wavering undecided voters who can be persuaded by the dedicated campaign volunteers at their doors to fill out and send in their ballots?
I like voting in person on Election Day. It’s one of the true common communal experiences we have in our diverse and sprawling nation, and the quiet act of voting with my fellow citizens always makes me feel good about living in a democracy. But I also think that early voting is curious, because it means that citizens are voting on the basis of different sets of information. People who vote on October 7 obviously can’t consider what happens in the remaining month before Election Day. What if there were some huge scandal, or game-changing incident during that intervening period? Wouldn’t you want to wait until you have all of the relevant information before you cast your ballot?
This year, I wonder how many people have cast their ballots on the basis of the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney. If you’re President Obama, aren’t you hoping that early voters at least hold off until after the second debate, when you have a chance to improve upon your initial performance?