A precinct polling place in west central Missouri on Election Day 2008. [file photo]
Three early voting initiative petitions have been filed with the Missouri Secretary of State and are awaiting public comment.
2014-56, 2014-57, and 2014-58 [pdf] would amend Article VIII of the Missouri Constitution by adding a new section which would allow early voting, would establish a centralized and satellite polling places for early voting, would establish weekend voting hours in the early voting period, and would have a process for reporting (as a public record) who had already voted. The last point would be crucial for get out the vote operations. If someone had already voted and a candidate/political party knew it they wouldn’t have to waste money on direct mail and/or phone calls directed at that particular voter.
At best, studies have shown mixed results for voter turnout when it comes to early voting. From the Pew Research Center:
September 23, 2013
Study: Early voting associated with lower turnout
By Rich Morin
Reformers hate it when this happens: The country’s most widely adopted reform designed to make voting easier may lower the chances that an individual voter will go to the polls, according to a new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science…..
….They found that only early voting when it is implemented by itself and Election-Day registration appeared to significantly affect turnout chances-early voting in a negative way and Election-Day registration positively….
….Why should turnout go down when people are allowed to vote early-and why do more people cast ballots in states that permit people to register and vote on Election Day?
These researchers say it’s because early voting robs “Election Day of its stimulating effects,” reducing social pressure to vote and gives less reason for campaigns to motivate their supporters and get them to the polls.
Voters are less motivated to cast ballots because early voting has the effect of “dissipating the energy of Election Day over a longer period of time….[S]ocial pressure is less evident, guidance on how or where to vote is less handy, and the prospect of social interactions at the polls is decreased,” they wrote.
Early voting laws also seem to affect the campaign itself by reducing efforts on both sides to mobilize support. For example, they examined patterns of media advertising in early voting and no-reform states. “The volume of ads is lower in states with early voting and the ramp up of ads before Election Day is also less steep in these states,” they found…..
Heh. Early voting could reduce the ads people are fond of complaining about during election cycles. I’d bet television, radio, print, and direct mail houses wouldn’t be too happy about those reductions in revenue. Fewer ads would reduce the cost of campaigns, don’t you think? Or maybe just shift it elsewhere. Like maybe field operations?
And, obviously, if a significant percentage of voters chose to vote early late attack ads will have no effect on their vote. In a longer early voting period there would be time to rebut (and in the case of media, investigate) early attack ads. There is the danger that a rebuttal could reinforce the original attack (after all, these are American voters). There’s an element of risk there for the campaign consultant industrial complex.
As voter behavior changes campaign and election behavior on the part of consultants, candidates and political parties will change. The game remains, identify and turn out the folks that will vote with you.