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Archives: Don’t trust claim of Early Voting advantage

Originally published in November 2012
Simon Nguyen

In a conference call with reporters over the weekend, Barack Obama’s campaign claimed the president has a strong early voting advantage over Mitt Romney. There is one big problem with this assertion, however. Ballots that were cast or submitted prior to Election Day won’t be counted until then. We don’t actually know who is leading the early vote. Any claim of early voting advantage is nothing more than extrapolation.

The president’s campaign appears to base its claim entirely on the fact that there were more registered Democrats than registered Republicans among early voters. However, not every voter makes her decision based on party affiliation. If this was true, the Democrats would have won all of the recent elections as they typically outnumber Republicans. Take the 2010 Elections for example. The Republicans won the election by a blowout, even though the Gallup survey on party affiliation showed self-identified Democrats outnumbering their Republican counterparts.

Missing in the whole equation are the independents. This voting bloc tends to go decisively for one party or one candidate over the other. If this trend holds, the number disparity between registered Democrats and registered Republicans in early voting would mean very little.

Another reason why early voting is a poor indicator of election outcomes is the fact it tends to reflect voters’ habits rather than voters’ support. Democrats seem to prefer early voting, while more Republicans and independents show up on Election Day. Any lead Obama has over Romney in early voting will likely disappear on Tuesday. The claim of advantage by the president’s campaign is a bit stretched.

The only states where early voting numbers could possibly have an impact on election outcomes are those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Voters in hard-hit areas in New York and New Jersey, who have yet to cast their ballots, may not be able to do so on Election Day due to factors such as logistics and displacement. Since these states are expected to go solidly for Obama, this should only affect the total vote tally.

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