Early Voting: A Two-Edged Sword?

An AP article I saw this morning (October 6th) carried this headline/title:  Election could be won or lost in October.  That caught my attention because I had not thought about early voting as being such a huge segment of the total votes cast as to be capable of determining an election weeks before ‘Election Day’, as that is still the day when the majority of votes are cast.  I was obviously naive in that regard, as I’m sure I am naive in other situations, too.

This article went on to report these details:

Hillary Clinton’s team will have likely determined in October whether or not she will win the election on November 8th.  They work in a conference room in Hillary’s Brooklyn office going over turn-out patterns state-by-state and projecting how many votes Clinton and Trump likely have already received.

Florida’s absentee balloting began on Tuesday of this week and already more than 2.5 million people, about a third of all who will vote, have requested ballots.

In Iowa, Clinton’s team already knows that 39,435 ballots have been cast and that 58% were Democratic ballots and that 25% were Republican ballots.  In North Carolina, it appears Clinton holds an edge with Democratic ballots leading Republican ballots 40% to 35%.  This data takes into account that Republicans typically do better with mail-in absentee balloting and that Democrats tend to surpass them with in-person early balloting in North Carolina.  So the Republicans are already upside down.

Hillary’s voter analytics director, Matt Dover, was quoted in the article as saying “many battleground states are already voting, so every day is election day.”  In North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, at least 45% of the total vote will likely be from early voting.  The Clinton campaign will likely know if it is going to win or lose the race by November 8th based on analytics.

Early voting began as a convenience for voters who would otherwise not be able to cast their ballots in person on Election Day.  I wonder if the idea that a candidate will know, or be able to project, the winner by the end of the month preceding the actual in-person Election Day will ultimately work to discourage Election Day voters.  What is to say that a candidate might not leak the ‘results’ in order to damp down his or her opponents’ turn-out?  Why should I vote if my guy or gal has already lost?  What would stop the leak from being false but intended to sway remaining voters?

I know we need to be cognizant of not denying the inherent right to vote from any citizen, but might there come a time when this early voting onslaught simply makes those who would’ve voted for the candidate who is “going to lose” say they’d save themselves the time and aggravation of going to the polls on Election Day?  As mentioned above, I can foresee the information being leaked or intimated by the “winner” in order to dissuade people from going to the polling place.  Given the actions of some already demonstrated, that is simply and unfortunately not at all just a remote possibility.

We see already just how ugly campaigns at this level can be, and both sides share in having created that atmosphere whether intentionally or unintentionally.  Might we get to a point where there needs to be a nationwide law, rather than a state-by-state mishmash of dates, specifying when absentee ballots can be mailed or when the voter can present themselves at a polling place early?

As sophisticated as campaigning has become, it is not too much a stretch to think that some ‘black-hearted’ campaign manager would resort to skullduggery.  Obviously, these people earn their keep by winning elections, and this is a highly competitive world.  The idea that someone might be less-than-scrupulous in the political arena is certainly not too great a reach to anticipate.  The age of computers has rendered data manipulation far more easily accomplished.  The era of “hanging chads” is virtually ancient history today.

The money at work in politics, especially at the national level, is astronomical.  The temptation will be too great for some.  Let us hope that we’ve not already crossed an invisible line somewhere along the way.

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