With early voting, Election Day is around the corner, even if Nov. 6 isn't
With 32 states plus the District of Columbia allowing in-person early voting, the Obama and Romney campaigns are deep into their early-voting strategies.
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But 2008 was a different a story. The “hope and change” tidal wave allowed the Obama campaign to mobilize a vast army of volunteers, especially of young people, to help turn out the pre-Election Day vote. Neither campaign disputes that Obama beat Republican nominee John McCain on early voting four years ago, allowing him to bank in advance the votes that handed him such critical states as Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Iowa.Skip to next paragraph
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Now the playing field is more level, as Obama struggles with a weak economy. Still, the president continues to outpoll Romney with the under-30 crowd by nearly 2 to 1. The question is whether Obama can pull together the same number of volunteers needed to do the door-knocking and phone-calling that encourages early voting.
On voter registration, at least, the Obama campaign is ahead of where it was four years ago, according to campaign manager Jim Messina. The campaign has registered 147 percent more voters than it had at this point four years ago, he told the Associated Press. He says that the Romney campaign is doing better than the McCain team did on its ground game but is “nowhere near where we are on the ground.”
First lady Michelle Obama has also gotten into the act. In July, she launched a voter registration program called “It Takes One,” in which she tells supporters that the one voter they register or take to the polls could be the one that makes the difference.
Adding fuel to Team Obama’s drive to bank votes early are the legal battles in several states – including two key battleground states, Florida and Ohio – over curtailed early voting. Advocates for minority rights have argued that the changes would especially hinder African-American turnout, which goes heavily for Obama. In 2008, more than half of black voters in Florida went to the polls early, double the rate of white voters.
Florida appears poised to reach an agreement with the Justice Department, though not everyone will be satisfied. The legal dispute relates only to five Florida counties that had never offered early voting on Sunday. Under the proposed agreement, polls will be open on the Sunday nine days before the election, but not the Sunday right before the election.
Democrats complained that denying voting on the Sunday before the election would undercut a program called Take Your Souls to the Polls, in which black congregations take members to vote right after church.
In Ohio, a federal judge ruled Aug. 31 that the final three days of early voting must be restored; the state’s Republican-controlled legislature had voted last year to eliminate them. The Obama campaign, which brought the lawsuit, argued that 93,000 Ohioans had voted on those last three days of early voting in 2008. The decision is under appeal.
The legal battle in Ohio has only emboldened the state’s Democrats in their early-voting efforts.
“Despite the attacks on early voting that we’ve seen, there’s still no greater way to guarantee that we’re going get a vote in the door than by making sure they vote early,” says Jerid Kurtz, communications director of the Ohio Democratic Party.