The rush is on to vote early
Obama seems to be benefiting so far, but McCain forces are hustling to get their supporters out, too.
Barack Obama has been urging his supporters to vote early when possible, and so far it seems to be paying off.Skip to next paragraph
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Some polling data indicates Senator Obama has as much as a 20 percent lead over John McCain from early votes. And in early-voting states like North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, Democrats are coming to the polls in much greater numbers.
The strategy allows Obama to make sure his supporters – who may be discouraged by long lines after work on Election Day – actually cast their ballots, as well as to shore up support at a time when he’s leading in the polls in many states.
“It just makes sense as a campaign strategy because the public climate is very favorable to Obama right now,” says Darrell West, director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. “The more people who decide now, the better off he is. You never know what’s going to change.”
So far, some 5 million people have cast early ballots in 13 states for which statistics are available. Thirty-four states now allow some form of early voting, and analysts expect that about one-third of all votes may be cast by Nov. 4. In some key states, like Colorado, where many people are casting their votes early by mail as well as in person, over 60 percent of ballots may be in before Election Day.
Although Republicans and Democrats are split fairly evenly in terms of ballots already received by the state, most of the mail-in ballots have yet to be turned in; registered Democrats have requested more mail-in ballots and Obama is currently leading in the polls.
“If these numbers start racking up, and McCain can’t change the trajectory of the campaign in Colorado, it’s just going to come to the point where he’s going to have to win 70 percent of the vote that’s remaining on Election Day, and that’s going to be impossible for him to do,” says Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. who studies early-voting trends.
Senator McCain has been urging his supporters to turn in early ballots as well, but not in so coordinated an effort and with seemingly less success. In Colorado, canvassers for Obama remind all voters they’re certain of to turn in their mail-in ballot right away, and the message seems to be sticking.
“We’ve had two or three people come to our door offering mail-in ballots,” says Luke Erikson, a recent PhD physics graduate who voted for Obama in Englewood, Colo., on Wednesday. He voted early since he didn’t want to make the lines any longer on Nov. 4, he says – though he still chose to vote in person because “I wanted the sticker.”