Early Voting Underway In U.S. Midterm Elections

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on October 5th, 2018,

Houston, Texas, USA : The U.S. midterm elections are still more than a month away, but early voting began in several states on Friday.

Early voting periods from Friday to Sept. 27 began for eight states, including Minnesota, Indiana and New Jersey.

Absentee ballots have already been sent in several key states, like North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Nineteen states will have sent them out by the end of the month, and the remaining 23 will send them in October, The Hill reported Friday.

Four states start Saturday. Colorado, Washington and Oregon conduct the entire election by mail, and some counties in California, Utah and North Dakota also do their elections exclusively via mail.

“There’s been this revolution in the use of mailed-out ballots in the last 20 years, and people like us are just hoping it accelerates,” said Phil Keisling, a director of the Center for Public Service at the Mark Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.

Minnesota voters started casting ballots on Friday.

While Election Day 2018 is technically Nov. 6, Minnesota law allows in-person voting to begin Friday — a full 46 days early — making it the first battleground state to begin casting actual votes in the broader fight for control of Congress.

South Dakota also opens early voting on Friday, and four more states follow in the next six days, including key states including New Jersey and Missouri. California, Montana and Arizona are among seven others that allow early voting in the subsequent two weeks.

“It’s like election day every day,” said Jake Schneider, a spokesman for Minnesota Republican Senate candidate Karin Housley. “It really changes the dynamic of an election. It really does. And it’s exciting.”

Experts predict more than 40 percent of all voters will take advantage of early voting this year. More than 57 million voters, or 42 percent, voted early in the 2016 election. The general election day this year is Nov. 6.

“You now have to have the closing intensity level last for three weeks instead of one four-day weekend,” said GOP strategist David Carney.

Early voting has affected races in several ways. Campaigns can look at voter rolls to know who has cast a ballot so their stumping can target the people who haven’t voted.

“You have far more ability to control the electorate, where if everyone votes on Election Day it’s more of a crapshoot,” said Mike Noble, a Republican strategist in Arizona. “As you’re updating your lists, you’re narrowing your universe” of potential voters.

Democratic strategist Dan Newman said they now have “election month” in California, instead of simply election day.

“You can’t sit on your hands and overwhelm an opponent with a late blitz,” Newman said. “By election day, a majority of voters have already voted.”

The commencement of voting in key states underscores the heightened significance of virtually every major development — political or otherwise — on the state and national stage in the coming days. Economic indicators, the president’s tweets, new revelations in the special counsel investigation and even the weather begin to matter much more as voters decide whether to go to the polls.

Political parties and their allies are ramping up voter outreach programs in several states to mark the beginning of the early voting phase.

The Democratic allies, Priorities USA Action and the Senate Majority PAC, for example, are launching a multimillion-dollar digital ad campaign next week as part of a voter mobilization program across five states that targets African-Americans, young Hispanics and other young people.

One of the new ads, shared with The Associated Press, highlights the rise of white supremacists in the Trump era. In another, a young black man says, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to vote this year.”

As is the case in many midterm battlegrounds, outside groups for several weeks have been dumping money into Minnesota, which features at least four competitive House elections, two U.S. Senate contests and a governor’s race.

Each of the political parties deployed paid staff and volunteers on the ground several months ago to identify supporters and persuade them to vote.

Democrats are focused on turning out “communities of color” in Minnesota, particularly in the areas around Minneapolis that feature large Somali and Southeast Asian populations, according to Ramsey Reid, the Midwestern regional director for the Democratic National Committee.

Democrats are working to ensure that minorities, who are considered more sporadic voters in some cases, comprise more than 8 percent of the Minnesota electorate, Reid said, noting that they made up less than 6 percent in the last midterm elections.

Republicans are focused on trying to bank their own set of “low-propensity” voters in the initial days of early voting, a group identified through several months of on-the-ground work with its expanding network of field staff and volunteers, according to Matt Dailer, the political strategy director for the Republican National Committee.

The RNC has a permanent presence on the ground in Minnesota and 19 other early voting states, he said, noting that the GOP is running a series of nationwide get-out-the-vote tests beginning Oct. 1 to ensure its system is running smoothly.

Minnesota faces an unusually high number of competitive races this fall.

Recent polling gave narrow leads to Democratic Rep. Tim Walz in the gubernatorial race and incumbent Democratic Sen. Tina Smith in the special election to fill the final two years of Democratic former Sen. Al Franken’s term, but their Republican opponents were within striking distance.

And four of the state’s eight congressional races are considered tossups. Two of those races, in southern Minnesota’s 1st District and northeastern Minnesota’s 8th District, are for open seats held by retiring Democrats, and they afford Republicans two of their pickup opportunities in the nation. That’s essentially the only place where the GOP is poised to flip a Democratic seat. In the suburban 2nd and 3rd districts, however, Democratic challengers stand good chances of defeating Republican incumbents.

Minnesota Democrats have planned an early vote campaign blitz this weekend with a series of rallies and surrogate appearances featuring people like former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and David Wellstone, the son of the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

After a Friday rally at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Smith and other Democrats plan to encourage attendees to hop on the nearby light-rail train and head downtown to vote.

Democratic congressional candidate Angie Craig, who’s taking on GOP incumbent Rep. Jason Lewis in the 2nd District, was planning her own “Early Vote Weekend of Action.”

“This race will come down to who turns out to vote between Friday and Election Day,” Craig told the AP. “We need every Democrat to turn out for this election.”

Minnesota is among 37 states that offer “no-excuse” absentee voting or another kind of early voting this year. Roughly 40 percent of ballots nationwide were not cast in a polling place on Election Day in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Minnesota’s no-excuse absentee voting system has soared in popularity since it rolled out in 2014. Voters don’t have to give a reason for voting early, as some states require, and they can change their minds until a week before Election Day.

“We no longer have an Election Day; we have an election window,” said Wendy Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s beginning now.”

Democrats in Pennsylvania are posed for big wins in Senate and governor races, according to a poll released Friday.

The Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll found that incumbent Senator Bob Casey (D) has the support of 53 percent of likely voters, while his opponent Rep. Lou Barletta (R) only has 35 percent.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D), also an incumbent, commands support from 55 percent of the likely voting pool, while Republican challenger Scott Wagner has 36 percent.

The poll also showed 55 percent of respondents disapproved of President Trump’s job performance, compared to 39 percent who approved in a state that went narrowly for the president in 2016.

The director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Polling attributed some of these large leads to a desire among the electorate to counterbalance Trump.

“For Democrats, what’s really resonating is the opposition to Trump,” Chris Borick said. “It’s front of mind.”

The poll also showed 48 percent of respondents indicated that their vote for Congress is meant to signal that Democrats are needed to oppose Trump.

The poll surveyed 404 likely voters between Sept. 13 and 19. The margin of error is 5.5 percent.

Here’s a list of early voting dates for the states that allow it

Many Americans will cast their ballots in voting booths on Nov. 6. But for some, voting begins far earlier. The dates below list the early voting dates for each of the states that allow it.

Sept. 20 Wisconsin
In-person absentee ballots can be submitted up to 47 days before the election, but start dates vary by municipality. Deadline for absentee ballots is the sunday before the election but also may vary by municipality.

Sept. 21 Minnesota
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 46 days before the election and as late as Nov. 5.

South Dakota
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 46 days before the election and as late as Election Day. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Sept. 22 Maine
Early voting generally begins 30-45 days before an election and ends on Election Day. Early voting dates may vary by county.

New Jersey
Early voting generally begins as early as 45 days before an election and ends as late as Nov. 5. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Vermont
Early voting generally begins as early as 45 days before an election and ends as late as Election Day. Voters can submit their ballot in person or by mail via an absentee ballot. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Sept. 27 Wyoming
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 40 days before the election and as late as Election Day. Early voting dates may vary by county.

North Dakota
Through Nov. 5.

Oct. 7 California
Early voting generally begins 30 days before the election, but specific dates vary by county. Early voting end dates also vary by county.

Nebraska
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 30 days before the election and as late as Election Day. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Oct. 8 Iowa
Voters can submit an absentee ballot as early as 29 days before the election at the county auditors’ office.

Oct. 9 Montana
Voters can pick up an absentee ballot in person as early as 28 days before the election and return it by Election Day

Oct. 10 Indiana
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 27 days before the election and as late as noon on Nov. 5.

Ohio
Early in-person voting during weekdays up until the weekend before Election Day, when voters can also submit a ballot on Saturday and Sunday.

Arizona
Early ballots are mailed

Oct. 15 Georgia
Early voting begins Oct. 15 and continues to Nov. 2.

Oct. 17 Tennessee
Early voting beings 20 days before the election and continues to Nov. 1.

North Carolina
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 20 days before the election and as late as Nov. 3. Registered voters will be able to stop at any designated absentee voting site in their counties.

Oregon
Oregon voters recieve a ballot in the mail. The first day to mail ballots is Oct. 17. Nov. 6 is the last day to drop off ballots at County Clerk’s office.

Oct. 19 Washington
Washington state has an 18 day voting period that starts on Oct 19. Drop boxes close on Nov. 6 at 8:00 p.m. Some my recive their ballot no later than Oct 25.

Oct. 20 New Mexico
Voters can submit a ballot in person as early as 17 days before the election and as late as Nov. 3. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Nevada
Through Nov. 2.

Oct. 22 Alaska
Voters can submit a ballot in person as early as 15 days before the election. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Arkansas
Voters can submit a ballot in person as early as 15 days before the election and as late as Nov. 5. Early voting dates may vary by county.

District of Columbia
Early voting begins specifically for One Judiciary Square. Voters can submit an in-person ballot 15 days before the election. Outside of this location, ballots can be submitted 10 days before the election (Oct. 27). Early voting ends on Nov. 5.

Idaho
Early voting can begin as late as 15 days before the election, but start dates may be earlier and vary by county. Early voting ends on Nov. 2.

Illinois
Voters can submit an absentee ballot in person as early as 15 days before the election and as late as Nov. 5.

Massachusetts
Voters can submit a ballot in person as early as 15 days before the election and as late as Nov. 2.

Texas
Voters can submit a ballot in person as early as 15 days before the election and as late as Nov. 2. Registered voters will be able to stop at any designated early voting site in their counties.

Oct. 23 Hawaii
Voters can submit a ballot in person as early as 14 days before the election and as late as Nov. 3. Early voting dates may vary by county.

Louisiana
Through Oct. 30, with the exception of Sunday, Oct. 28.

Utah
Through Nov. 2.

Oct. 24 West Virginia
Through Nov. 3

Oct. 25 Maryland
Through Nov. 1

Oct. 27 Florida
Through Nov. 3.

Oct. 30 Colorado
Colorado voters receive a ballot in the mail, and in-person voting starts at least 7 days before the election, but start dates may vary by county. In-person voting ends on Election Day.

Kansas
Early voting must begin at least 7 days before the election, but start dates may vary by county and can be as many as 20 days in advance of the election. Early voting ends Nov. 5.

Nov. 1 Oklahoma
Voters can cast a ballot at their local county election office Thursday and Friday prior to the election from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday before the election from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Early voting ends on Nov. 4.

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Bamidele Ogunberu

Bamidele Ogunberu

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