Election Day is not until November 6, but many people across the U.S. are already casting their votes for President of the United States. Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., allow early voting by mail, in person, or both.
Iowa is the first battleground state in which in-person early voting is taking place. Iowans can begin casting their ballots today. Voters in six of the other eight battleground states—Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin—will begin early in-person voting in the coming weeks. (The other two battleground states, New Hampshire and Virginia, do not allow early in-person voting.)
A battleground state, or swing state, is one in which a large percentage of voters don’t consistently vote for a specific party. Unlike in states that traditionally vote either Democrat or Republican, neither the Democratic candidate (President Barack Obama) nor the Republican candidate (Mitt Romney) can count on winning in a swing state. In a close race like this one according to polling data, the voting outcomes in those states are crucial to both sides.
EARLY VOTING EFFECTS
The percentage of early voters across the U.S. has steadily increased—from 16 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2008. Experts predict that this year the portion of voters who vote before Election Day will be as high as 40 percent.
Because of this increase in early voting, campaigns have become much more expensive. Candidates spend a lot more money on TV ads, mailings, social networking, and other tactics earlier in the race.
Early voting also helps candidates improve the focus of their campaigns. Once early votes are secured, candidates can target their messages to the voters who are still undecided or reluctant to vote.
“By encouraging our supporters to vote early, we can focus our resources more efficiently on Election Day to make sure those less likely to vote get out to the polls,” Adam Fetcher, an Obama campaign spokesman, told reporters.
Initial signs show that the Obama campaign has been successful in encouraging early voting: More than six times as many Democrats as Republicans have requested early ballots. But Romney’s camp says the Republicans are catching up. Plus, early voting is not always the best guide. In 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry had more early votes in Iowa than President George W. Bush had, but Bush ended up winning the state by 10,000 votes.
With more than a month still left before Election Day, Obama and Romney are still in the thick of the race for the White House. The two candidates will meet in three televised debates in October, hoping to sway voters to their sides before Election Day in important battleground states like Iowa.