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Tag Archives: Early Voting
In the United States, unlike most major democracies, election law is primarily set by the state. Additionally, elections are run by local officials — usually elected in partisan elections. For those involved in elections (candidates, supporters, and voters), there are two significant consequences to this aspect of American democracy. First, every state has its own rules and timetables for registering to vote and for voting. Second, even within those rules, local officials have a lot of discretion that can influence the results of elections.
To win, campaigns need to do two things. First, they need to communicate a message that connects to potential voters. Second, they need to get those potential voters to vote. The messaging part is like the tip of the iceberg. It occurs above the surface. At this time of the cycle, advertisements are a rising tide. Depending upon where you live and what races are competitive, political ads are slowly becoming more and more omnipresent (ultimately peaking in the week before the election when ads for consumer goods will all but disappear from the air). But political ads are run out of the campaign headquarters and involve the local activist very little. It is the part beneath the surface — the get out the vote campaign — that requires a good field operation and local effort.
In Missouri, we have an interesting case working it’s way through the system. (The trial court issued its ruling yesterday; any appeal will have to be expedited.) The basic facts of the case are: 1) about five hundred people cast absentee votes; 2) the incumbent state representative got just under 80% of the absentee vote (picking up a net of approximately three hundred votes); 3) the challenger got the most votes from votes cast on election day; and 4) the incumbent won by a total of ninety votes. Given the small number of votes cast in primaries for state representative, the margin was significantly over the threshold for a recount, and the only option for the challenger was an election contest. In this case, the election contest focused on the validity of absentee voting. While there was some evidence of some improprieties by the incumbent in with some of the absentee votes, the evidence of such “fraud” impacted less than 20 ballots. Instead, the case came down to whether the election authority properly followed the rules for absentee ballots., and the current ruling emphasizes the difference between a true early voting system and an absentee ballot.