How mail-in ballots might confuse polls - and Election Day results
Increasing numbers of Americans can vote by mail or absentee ballots. This makes it harder for polls to gauge who the winner might be and means some close races might not be called for days.
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Thirty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, offer some form of early voting up to two weeks before Election Day, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. This means going to an elections office. But of those 32 states, 29 allow for “no-excuse” absentee voting by mail. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Washington, and the District of Columbia allow permanent no-excuse absentee voting, which means voters may have an absentee ballot sent to them automatically for all future elections.Skip to next paragraph
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One indicator of the trend in early voting may be found in this year’s primary elections.
Reviewing voting patterns in key states, USA Today found that the number of early voters grew 50 percent compared to two years ago.
“Nearly 6 million people took part in early voting during this year's primary elections in the 13 states reviewed, including California, Florida and Texas,” USA Today reports. “That's up from just over 4 million voters in those same states during the 2006 primary election.”
Vote counting could go on for days
Did you enjoy the Bush-Gore presidential election in 2000, when Florida’s recount went on for days as battalions of lawyers got involved and “hanging chads” entered the political lexicon? Some neck-and-neck races could go the same way this year.
“Hundreds of lawyers from both parties [are] preparing for battles that could drag on days, weeks or even months past the Nov. 3 day-after,” reports Associated Press writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis, who suggests that a couple of Democrats – Ben Nelson? Joe Lieberman? – could switch sides in the event of a muddled outcome, giving Republicans control of the Senate.
In Washington State, meanwhile, the Murray-Rossi race is very much up in the air, with polls giving conflicting results, notes FiveThirtyEight.com’s Silver. Polling there, he writes in his New York Times column, “has been all over the map.” One shows Rossi with a 6-point edge; another has Murray (who handily won her first three US Senate races) ahead by 15 points.
Will mail-in ballots there, in a race that appears to be very close, mean a drawn-out vote tally? It’s happened before.
In his 2004 gubernatorial race against Democrat Christine Gregoire, Rossi endured months of vote challenges and two official recounts to lose by just 133 votes out of 2.8 million cast – the closest race for governor in US history.