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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Early Voting: Weapon Against Suppression

It’s now estimated that as many as a third of America’s voters will cast ballots before election day, up from 22 percent in ’04. That’s an impressive statistic, but, for Dems especially, it may not be enough.
All indications are that the nation will have a record-setting turnout, so high is voter interest in the current presidential campaign. There will be long lines across the nation on November 4, especially in predominantly African-American precincts. One fear is that elderly voters, who just can’t stand around for a long time will go home before casting ballots. There may be an even larger group of impatient individuals among Obama supporters of all races in swing states. Bad weather could exacerbate the problem.
More to the point, there will be Republican shenanigans in swing states on election day. The safe assumption is to expect confusion, disinformation, delays, parking hassles, disappearing registration records and computer glitches. If Dems are caught by surprise at the scale of election day problems, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Consider the ACORN smear campaign and possible politicization of the FBI as tip-offs that disenfranchisement efforts on an unprecedented scale could be in in the works.
Surely, the Obama campaign and DNC have their legal teams in training already (For a good report on the legal strategy against suppression see here). But one powerful weapon we all have against voter suppression is to vote early. Every Democrat who votes early has made a contribution to reducing election day confusion. Even better, it’s harder to discount early votes, because there is more time to challenge any effort to do so. Another reason to encourage early voting is that the race always narrows in the last few days of the campaign. Banking Obama votes now, while the memory of the debates is still fresh is good strategy. Those who vote early are also freer to use their time on election day helping others get to the polls.
Yes, there are reports of long lines, even for early voting in many localities. Better to wait now, however, than add to the confusion on election day. If you get in and out quickly, you can use the hour your employer gives you to vote to help a carless co-worker get to the polls.
So putting some effort into early voting for ourselves, our families and friends is time well-spent for Dems. If we can bump up the share of early voters from a third to say 40 percent, it could make a huge difference for the better for America’s future.

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