Early voting results

George Mason prof has preliminary data on early voting patterns.

By Thomas Schaller
Published October 20, 2008 3:05PM (EDT)

Fellow political scientist Michael McDonald, of George Mason, is a top elections expert, and he has a post up on his site with preliminary data on early voting. (Hat tip to Politico's Ben Smith.)

Personally, I worry about early voting. I don't like the idea of either party locking in its votes in advance. Plus, voting before the election is over strikes me as anti-deliberative.

Easier voting? Sure. Earlier voting? Not so sure.

But it's here to stay, in varying forms in different states, so we may as well look at how it's going so far in 2008.

Update: For those complaining about my objections to early voting (whether they read my Sun column about it or not), consider the following, not so implausible scenario:

Republicans in 2008 systematically use absentee ballots to get voters locked in, just as Bush-Cheney campaigns did in both 2000 and 2004---remember those Florida absentee ballots filled out incompletely that were counted anyway? Then, days before the election, some reporter learns that the McCains have hidden certain income from their tax filings--cheating the government of taxes in an era of massive deficits while the rest of us filed honestly. The story breaks and late polls in some states where McCain had been leading all along suddenly show that voters statewide now favor Obama. Ah, but the tilt of already-cast votes in some of these swing states tip the final results to McCain-Palin because their votes were cast before the new information was reported.

Would  those championing early voting be singing its praises then? Hmm...I doubt it. And if, say, your kid was competing in a piano recital or figure skating contest and you learned that judges voted one minute before each performance had finished, would you rush down to the scoring table, after your kid finished second to another kid who flubbed during the final minute, to applaud such referees and policies? I also doubt it.

In some states early voting began BEFORE the presidential debates had even concluded. For service people living over seas, or people who will be out of country or otherwise indisposed because of work or school, or for other people in extraordinary situations, early voting sounds fine to me. But pretty soon the election is going to be a six-week rolling event. Is this not at least little bit troubling?

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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