[Image courtesy of history.com]
Early voting and vote-by-mail have been in the news lately, especially in the wake of the recent report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration endorsing early voting as one solution to the problem of long lines at the polls.
The significance of this fight is only likely to grow as more and more voters cast their ballots before Election Day. Indeed Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner suggested last night that pre-election ballots may have exceeded those cast on Election Day. The Tampa Tribune’s “Fresh Squeezed” blog has more:
Secretary of State Ken Detzner says for the first time in state history people using absentee ballots and voting by mail may have surpassed the number of people voting on election day.
The 2014 primary was largely quiet, with big-ticket statewide races all but decided before election day.
What piqued the interest of many political junkies and election observers is the continued spike in the use of absentee ballots, which were up more than 40 percent from the 2010 primary.
“We may have seen a record number of absentee ballots … combined with early voting, we may have surpassed election day” voting, Detzner said.
Though early voting was down, overall early voting and absentee ballots were up 23 percent compared to the 2010 primary.
When a reporter suggested that pre-election day ballots would not outnumber election day voting in November’s general election, Detzner said he “might not agree.”
Now obviously, two big factors in this development are that 1) it was a primary and 2) that overall turnout was down – which means that the electorate that did turn out consisted of more habitual partisan voters. As Paul Gronke has noted, those voters are precisely the kinds of voters who are more likely use non-precinct place ballots so it isn’t entirely surprising that their relative share of the overall vote increased. For that reason, I wouldn’t expect the trend to continue in the general unless voter interest in the ballot is so low as to approach primary election levels.
Still, all states – and especially big states like Florida – are going to need to pay attention to the fact that voters are casting pre-election ballots in ever-increasing numbers. As that trend continues, election officials and policymakers alike are going to have to rethink everything about elections – locations, technology and especially funding – to reflect the new reality.
[Tip of the electiongeek propeller beanie to Steve Kolbert for the story!]