In a recent report, a bi-partisan presidential commission provided several recommendations regarding how Americans vote and promoting “confidence in the administration of U.S. elections.”
Chaired by a Democrat and a Republican, the commission focused its recommendations on the voter registration, poll access, polling place management and voting technology.
Along with promoting online registration and the exchange of voter lists among the states, the group advocates the “expansion of voting before election day” in order limit congestion and “respond to the demand for greater opportunities.”
Recognizing that a “quiet revolution” is occurring with early voting, the commission noted that one-third of all Americans cast their ballot before Election Day in 2012 and that officials from both sides of the political aisle “testified to the important of early voting in alleviating the congestion and other potential problems” of a single day.
Much has been made of “reforms” in North Carolina under the 2013 “Voter Information Verification Act” that shortens the number of early voting days, but requires that number of hours of early voting be the same as it was in 2012 in each county.
Whether this is designed to suppress voters is up for question, but looking back at both 2008 and 2012 can give us some idea of how voters of different partisan stripes utilized early voting.
According to the State Board of Election’s data, 2008’s general election in North Carolina saw 56% of all the ballots cast come before Election Day; yet there was a profound difference between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters using early voting.
Among Democratic voters, 63% of all their ballots came in early, while 52% of unaffiliated and a plurality of Republican voters (48%) cast their ballots before Election Day.
Four years later, in 2012, over half of Republican voters cast their ballots early, with Democrats continuing their 63% mark and unaffiliated voters staying roughly the same as in 2008.
Mid-term elections tend to attract a smaller turnout, and if North Carolina’s most recent mid-term election in 2010 is any indication, most voters will cast their ballots on November 4th rather than beforehand.
In 2010, only 34% of all ballots cast statewide came in before Election Day, and there was no distinct partisan advantage: both Democrats and Republicans saw 35% of their voters cast ballots prior to Election Day, while only 32% of unaffiliated voters cast their ballots early.
The 2014 mid-term election will be a key trial of revamped early voting in what many expect to be a highly competitive Tar Heel election.
But the true test may be two years off in the next round of the presidential electoral battle.