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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clinton in Better Shape to Leverage Early Voting

At The Fix, Philip Bump has an overview of early voting windows in the 50 states and how these windows  affect presidential campaign strategy. Bump unveils a new WaPo graph which depicts the early voting window in each state, along with polling averages in each state, to provide a sense of how Clinton and Trump are doing. Bump writes:

…”Election Day” is a misnomer, suggesting a set time at which America will head to the polls. Our description of Election Day being 82 days away is correct in that Nov. 8 is the day most people will vote in the election — but millions will vote well in advance of that, some by absentee ballot and some at early voting stations. What that means is that the presidential campaigns (and every other candidate) needs to have its turnout operation up and ready within a month, not within two. And it means that Trump’s consistent pokiness about setting up his field effort will be a problem sooner rather than later.

At Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg (who knows this world well) reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has oriented its operation in an unusual way, dividing its focus between states that vote early and those that don’t, recognizing the very different ways in which the campaigns in those places differ. In 2012, a quarter of the votes cast were cast by early ballot, he notes. Michael McDonald, who tabulated that number, figures this year could top one-third.

Bump points out that the rules for early voting vary significantly from state to state, so the value of any comparisons is limited accordingly. One of the consequential takeaways from the graph is that people will start voting toward the end of September in six states, including potential swing states Michigan and Minnesota. All of the other early voting windows open up in October, with the exception of Oklahoma, which has a tiny early voting window in November.

Some, but not all of the potential swing states that will decide the election, have early voting windows opening in October, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Of this list, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia have the most electoral votes, and all of them have Republican Governors and Secretaries of State.

Recent history suggests voter suppression activities on election day, including “caging,” poll site and hours disinformation, phony “security” guards, no parking signs near polls, purge lists, voting machine malfunctions, poll understaffing to create long lines and other scams, will be in full throttle in the first three of these states.  So early voting can make a pivotal difference in these four states, especially NC, where close races for Governor and U.S. Senator, as well as President are heating up. Ohio and Florida also have see-saw senate races, according to recent polls.

It makes good sense for Democratic candidates to try and bank as many votes as possible in the early voting windows in these four potential swing states. Florida (Oct. 29) and North Carolina (Oct. 27) have short early voting windows, while Ohio (Oct. 12) and Georgia (Oct. 17) open their early voting windows earlier.

Democrats should take no comfort from the fact that many Republicans, including Governor Kasich of Ohio, have given up on Trump. Dems should still expect fierce voter suppression in Ohio, where Republicans desperately want to hold Rob Portman’s senate seat and in NC, where even more is at stake.

It is encouraging that the Clinton campaign has a much better ground game already gearing up to help bank early votes. They are going to need it in a big way in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, and perhaps Georgia.

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