NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Early Voting is Changing the Nature of Elections and Campaigns

October 14, 2002

By the time Election Day arrives, some 15 percent of American voters will already have cast their ballots, officials estimate.

That's because some two dozen states have adopted a variety of early voting procedures.

  • The switch from Election Day to what might better be called Election Month has forced candidates and their advisers to rethink every facet of how they run for office -- from what to say to when to say it, from how to run a get-out-the-vote operation to when to broadcast their first television advertisements.
  • Campaigns are starting earlier and costing more, and the kinds of attacks and appeals that might typically be saved for the end are being raised earlier.
  • Political professionals say that while the change may be making it easier for Americans to vote, it is also producing a less-informed electorate.
  • Officials report that earlier balloting has not appreciably increased turnout -- but it may have stalled the 25 percent decline in turnout since the 1960s.

For voters, early voting can also mean being deprived of the kind of unexpected insights close-fought campaigns produce in the final hours of a campaign -- that would be lost to those who had irretrievably cast their votes.

Source: Adam Nagourney, "Early Voting Puts Many Candidates in Early Overdrive," New York Times, October 14, 2002.


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