Right-wing media have attacked early voting, claiming it leads to fraud, pushes uninformed voters to cast ballots too early, and is unconstitutional and untraditional. In fact, early voting increases the integrity of the voting process, and the vast majority of early votes are cast in the final two weeks before the election by decided voters. Early voting dates back to the founding of the country.
Limbaugh: “This Early Voting -- It's A Recipe For Fraud.” During the October 1 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh expressed dismay that “85 percent of the country” will be able to vote “before the last [presidential] debate is over.” He then said, “This early voting -- it's a recipe for fraud.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/1/12]
Limbaugh: Early Voting Is “A Recipe For Cheating. It's One Of The Reasons It Exists.” During the May 31 broadcast of his show, Rush Limbaugh said, “All of us know [Democrats] cheat. All of us know they engage in [unintelligible] -- they use fraud. They use early voting. It's a recipe for cheating. It's one of the reasons it exists.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/31/12]
Fox's Dobbs: I'm Concerned About “The Possibility Of Manipulation Of The Results That Comes With Early Voting.” During the September 24 broadcast of his Fox Business show, host Lou Dobbs discussed early voting with his guest, Wall Street Journal editor James Freeman. Dobbs said, “I'm a little more concerned about the outcome and the capacity and exposure and the possibility of manipulation of the results that comes with early voting, in the minds of many.” He later asked Freeman, “You're not worried about all of those ballots being insecure?” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/24/12]
Florida Senate Report: “Early Voting Increases Procedural Integrity Resulting In More Accurate Ballot Counts.” In an October 2010 interim report on the effect of early voting on Florida elections, the Florida Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections wrote that “early voting increases procedural integrity resulting in more accurate ballot counts.” [FLSenate.gov, October 2010]
William & Mary Journal: “Election Officials Like Early Voting” Because It Is “More Accurate.” A 2008 article in the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal stated that election officials “like early voting because it is ... more accurate.” [William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 2008]
Political Science Journal: Early Voting Results In “A More Accurate Count.” An October 2007 paper published in the journal PS: Political Science & Politics by Reed College political science professor Paul Gronke, who directs the Early Voting Information Center, noted: “The empirical evidence to date supports election officials in their claims of procedural integrity. [Early in-person voting], absentee balloting, and [voting by mail] all do result in a more accurate count.” [PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2007]
In Person Voter Fraud Is Very Rare. On September 20, a voting expert on Fox News said that voter fraud is extremely rare, “on the order of winning the lottery.” A 2007 report from New York University's Brennan Center noted that allegations of voter fraud “simply do not pan out.” In November 2011, Fox host Megyn Kelly admitted that voter fraud is “not overwhelming.” [Media Matters, 9/20/12, 9/10/12, 11/4/11]
NRO's Fund: It's “A Bad Idea For So Many People To Vote Without Hearing The Full Debate A Campaign Brings Them.” In an October 1 National Review Online (NRO) article attacking early voting and expanded absentee balloting, conservative columnist John Fund wrote:
It's also a bad idea for so many people to vote without hearing the full debate a campaign brings them. Imagine if you had early voting in jury trials, in which some jurors could cast a vote before all the evidence had been presented in court. Voters are casting ballots on the basis of potentially radically different information --85 percent of the country will be able to vote before the last presidential debate finishes on October 23. An astonishing 15 percent will be eligible to vote before the first debate on October 3. Once a person casts an early vote, he can't take it back, even in the event of a last-minute scandal, an economic upheaval, or a foreign-policy crisis that might make him prefer another candidate. Some observers think it's possible that Barack Obama would not have won in 2008 if that year's dramatic economic crisis had occurred in late October, after many people had already cast their votes, instead of in mid-September when the crisis actually hit. [National Review Online, 10/1/12]
Daily Caller's Lewis: “Voters Are Casting Ballots Before They Have All The Information.” From a September 22 postby the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis:
2. Voters are casting ballots before they have all the information.
In October, there will be three important presidential debates. But Americans who vote today can't take their votes back if they learn some disqualifying information between now and November 6. And even if the candidates don't introduce new information or commit some sort of gaffe, what if the world changes? (Four years ago today, for example, John McCain had not yet suspended his campaign to focus on the financial crisis.) [Daily Caller, 9/22/12, emphasis original]
... But Voting Expert Notes That Majority Of Early Voting Ballots Are Cast During Final Two Weeks -- By Decided Voters
Voting Expert Gronke: “The Overwhelming Majority Of Early Votes Are Cast During The Last Two Weeks.” On the blog of the Early Voting Information Center (EVIC),PaulGronke, EVIC's director, wrote:
Most voters don't cast a ballot during the “extended” early voting period (he must mean the weeks before the “final weeks” , although he contradicts himself there). I'll write again what I wrote a few days ago: the overwhelming majority of early votes are cast during the last two weeks, and the majority, in most states I have examined, in the last week. [Early Voting Information Center, 9/29/12]
Gronke: “We Know From Long Experience That Early Voters Are Decided Voters.” From Gronke's post:
Those early ballots, on average, constituted around one-third of votes in the 2008 general. And finally, we know from long experience that early voters are decided voters. [Early Voting Information Center, 9/29/12]
Gronke Tells NPR That The “Profile” Of The Early Voter Is “The Decided” Voter. From a September 27 interview between NPR's Morning Edition host David Greene and Gronke:
GREENE: You know, one other thing I wonder, Professor Gronke, is there a profile of an early voter? I mean, do more Democrats or more Republicans tends to vote earlier?
GRONKE: Well, there has been a profile and it's been the decided. So it's been both Democrats and Republicans, but it's been those who've made up their mind. So if you look on one side of the coin, they're partisan, they're ideological, and you flip that coin over and you see the kind of patterns we've seen for a long time in American politics. Better educated, higher income, and these have tended toward Republicans, but as the early electorate has expanded, it's also diversified.
Particularly in 2008, we saw African-Americans flock to the early in-person polls in the southeastern part of the United States, and that really fits right in. I mean, when Barack Obama was nominated in 2008, really for a lot of African Americans in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, they could have cast their ballot right there. There was very little that was going to make them vote for John McCain. [NPR, 9/27/12]
Newsmax: “Early Voting Violates [The] Constitution.” In an October 10 column on Newsmaxheadlined “Early Voting Violates Constitution,” former Bush aide Bradley Blakeman wrote:
The U.S. Constitution sets forth the following criteria for the date of presidential elections in Article 2, Section 1:
Clause 4: Election Day
"The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
Congress sets a national Election Day. Currently, Electors are chosen on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, in the year before the President's term is to expire. The Electors cast their votes on the Monday following the second Wednesday in December of that year. Thereafter, the votes are opened and counted by the Vice President, as President of the Senate, in a joint session of Congress.
Our Founding Fathers specifically set forth “a national Election Day” --not days. In the early days of national elections it was no easy logistical task to vote. People had to plan to cast their ballot. Many citizens had to endure long travel and hardship to cast their ballot on a single day.
You would think that the authors of the Constitution in light of the hassle citizens had to go through to exercise their right to vote would have provided a period of days for ballots to be cast. The fact is they didn't. I believe the Founding Fathers set forth one day for voting because they knew that in order to best execute a fair election and in order for Americans to understand and appreciate their right to vote that voting should involve some level of “sacrifice” of time and effort.
If our founding fathers saw no need for elections to be conducted over days and weeks in light of the inconvenience and sacrifice required at the time, why now in 2012, when travel and access to polling places is so convenient do we disregard the constitutional requirement for national elections to be conducted on just one day? [Newsmax.com, 10/10/12, emphasis added]
Dobbs: “Well, 200 Years Of History Would Suggest [Voters] Wait Until” Election Day To Vote. During the September 24 broadcast of his show, Dobbs said that voting “traditionally has been on one day” and later said of early voters, “Well, 200 years of history would suggest they wait until Tuesday, November 6.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/24/12]
Voting Expert McDonald: At “The Founding, Elections Were Held Over Several Days To Allow People Living In Remote Areas To Get To The Courthouse.” From an online conversation with voting expert Michael McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason University, that was hosted by the Brookings Institute:
12:47 Comment from Jennifer S. : Why do we vote on Tuesday? It seems inconvenient. Wouldn't more people vote if we did it on the weekend? Or over a period of days that offered both morning and evening hours?
12:48 Michael McDonald: We used to have early voting in the US! Back at the Founding, elections were held over several days to allow people living in remote areas to get to the courthouse (the polling place back in the day) to vote. In the mid-1840s, the federal gov't set the current single day for voting because -- what else? -- claims of vote fraud. That people could vote more than once. [Brookings, 9/26/12]
Prior To 1845, Presidential Elections Took Place Over A 34-Day Period. According to a 1992 report prepared by William Kimberling, then the deputy director of the Federal Election Commission's Office of Election Administration, before 1845, Congress allowed states to conduct their presidential elections over a 34-day period.
For the first fifty years of the Federation, Congress permitted the States to conduct their presidential elections (or otherwise to choose their Electors) anytime in a 34 day period before the first Wednesday of December which was the day set for the meeting of the Electors in their respective States.
The problems born of such an arrangement are obvious and were intensified by improved communications. For the States which voted later could swell, diminish, or be influenced by a candidate's victories in the States which voted earlier. In close elections, the States which voted last might well determine the outcome.
The Congress, in 1845, therefore adopted a uniform day on which the States were to choose their Electors. That day -- the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in years divisible by four -- continues to be the day on which all the States now conduct their presidential elections. [FEC.gov, revised May 1992]
CS Monitor: “From 1792 Until 1845,” Voting Occurred “Any Time In The 34 Days” Before The Electoral College Met. From a November 2, 2010, Christian Science Monitor article:
In its infancy, the US had no set day for national elections. From 1792 until 1845, Congress allowed states to hold their polls any time in the 34 days before the first Wednesday in December, which was the day the Electoral College met. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/2/10]
Beacon Journal: Early Voting Was Expanded In Ohio After 2004 Election Saw Unacceptably Long Wait Times For Voters. Early voting was expanded to include the weekend prior to election day after the 2004 presidential election, when long lines and equipment problems caused voters to wait nearly all day to cast their ballot. The Akron Beacon Journal reported:
The legislature expanded absentee voting in Ohio after the 2004 presidential election that saw long lines, with some voters waiting up to seven hours and others giving up and going home. The first presidential election that allowed early voting without a special reason was four years ago, when nearly 21 percent of all registered voters in Ohio cast absentee ballots. [Akron Beacon Journal, 7/17/12]
Voting Problems Prior To Expanding Early Voting Effectively Left Many Citizens Disenfranchised. The complaint noted that the long lines in 2004 left people who could not spend an entire day at the polls disenfranchised:
Between 2005 and 2011, Ohio successfully administered an early voting system that included in-person voting in the three days prior to Election Day. This early voting system increased participation among voters, including those for whom work or family obligations make it difficult to vote on Election Day, and reduced the congestion that caused such severe waits during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio that some citizens were effectively denied the right to vote. [Obama for America v. Husted, accessed 10/2/12]
NY Times: In 2004, 15,000 People Left The Columbus Polls Without Voting Because Of Long Lines. The New York Times revealed the need for early voting in Ohio after tens of thousands of voters were left disenfranchised on Election day 2004. A voting machine shortage in Youngstown left 8,000 African-American voters disenfranchised when they were unable to cast a ballot. In one county, more than 1,300 people were expected to vote on just two machines:
Everyone complains that young people don't vote, but consider the experience of students at Kenyon College in Ohio in the 2004 election. Officials in Knox County, Ohio, provided just two voting machines for the school's 1,300 voters. Some students waited in line for 10 hours, and the last bleary-eyed voter did not cast a ballot until nearly 4 a.m.
[T]ens of thousands of votes were suppressed by something so mundane that no one thought to focus on it: long lines.
In Columbus, as many as 15,000 people left the polls without voting, many because of long lines. At a postelection hearing, a Youngstown pastor estimated that 8,000 black voters there did not cast ballots because of a machine shortage. [The New York Times, 8/25/08]
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: FL Early Voting “Started In 2002 As A Reform Stemming From The 2000 Election Debacle.” An August 20, 2006, article in the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wrote, “Started in 2002 as a reform stemming from the 2000 election debacle, early voting exploded in popularity in 2004, when it was used by 9.1 percent of the 546,925 people who voted in Palm Beach County.” [Sun-Sentinel, 8/20/06]
Political Science Journal: “The 2000 Presidential Election's Myriad Scandals and Debacles ... Gave Birth To A National Movement Toward Overhauling The Electoral System.” From the 2007 journal article in PS: Political Science & Politics:
The 2000 presidential election's myriad scandals and debacles (mainly technological and clerical in nature) gave birth to a national movement toward overhauling the electoral system. In the wake of the election, many states expanded their election systems to include convenience options-- some states even adopted additional early voting options (e.g., Florida, which added no-excuse absentee voting to EIP). The Help America Vote Act (HAVA, 2002) also spurred the growth of early voting. The administrative and technological benefits of early voting systems became particularly important in the period following 2000: a test-run of new voting machines, relief of Election-Day crowds, lower staffing costs, and extra hands-on training opportunities for poll workers appeal to voters and election officials alike. [PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2007]
FL Senate Report: Many Early Voters “Identified Convenience” Or “Avoid[ing] The Rush On Election Day” As Reason For Casting Early Ballot. From the 2010 Florida Senate committee report:
According to a 2004 voting study, 28% of early voters identified convenience as their primary reason for casting an early ballot, while 30% said they wanted to avoid the rush on Election Day. Early voting gives busy people or those with special needs a more convenient opportunity to vote. [FLSenate.gov, October 2010]
IA County Election Commissioner: “People Find It Much Easier If They Can Choose The Time To Vote.” From CNN.com:
Come the first Tuesday in November, when millions are streaming into polling stations across the country, as much as 40% of Americans will have already voted.
In 2004, 22% of Americans voted early and that rate rose to 34% in 2008, according to Paul Gronke, Professor of Political Science who founded and runs the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Oregon.
Not only is early voting changing the way Americans cast their ballot but it's also changing the way candidates run their campaigns.
“People find it much easier if they can choose the time to vote ... rather than show up on one day of the week,” said Tom Slockett, Johnson County, Iowa, commissioner of elections and the county's voting auditor.
Slockett said early voting is insurance against the expected -- finals at the University of Iowa or an out-of-town business trip -- or the unexpected, like a sick child. [CNN.com, 9/23/12]
Political Science Journal: “A Significant Proportion Of Voters Clearly Prefer Voting At Locations Other Than The Precinct Place, And On Days Other Than Election Day.” Gronke's 2007 journal article in PS: Political Science & Politics noted, “What is overwhelmingly apparent ... is the rapid increase in early voting once states adopt these reforms. A significant proportion of voters clearly prefer voting at locations other than the precinct place, and on days other than Election Day.” The article also stated: “Citizen support of early voting has been high as well. We know, for example, that Oregonians love [voting by mail]. They report a very high level of satisfaction with the system and claim that it makes them more likely to vote.” [PS: Political Science & Politics, October 2007]
Voting Expert Gronke: “The Objective Facts Indicate There Seem To Be Partisan Motivations Behind The Ratcheting Back Of Early In-Person Voting.” In an August 18 Huffington Post article, Washington correspondent Dan Froomkinreported that early voting had been used in 2008 to mobilize African-American and Latino voters,andthen quoted Gronke stating that there seem to be “partisan motivations” behind efforts to limit early voting:
Early voting started off a wildly popular, bipartisan element of voting reform. Indeed, of all the voting reforms this country has seen over the last decades, early voting is easily the most unassailable. It makes voting more convenient for the public and makes Election Day easier for election officials. Because it generally happens at board of elections offices, it takes notoriously unreliable volunteer poll workers out of the picture.
But Republican leaders cooled on the idea after 2008. “It just so happened that this was the first time that early voting had been used in large numbers to mobilize African American and Latino voters,” said Wendy Weiser, who directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
After the GOP won control of many statehouses in 2010, rolling back early voting became a top legislative priority. That meant reducing the period for early in-person voting in Florida from 14 to 8 days, and in Ohio, from 35 to 11. And no voting on Sunday before the election.
“I try to be an objective observer,” said professor Paul Gronke, who runs the nonpartisan Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Oregon. “But the objective facts indicate there seem to be partisan motivations behind the ratcheting back of early in-person voting.” [Huffington Post, 8/18/12]
Restrictions On Early Voting And Other Prohibitive Voting Laws Are “All About Parties Crafting Laws To Help Ensure That Their Side Wins.” CNN reportedin August that some political experts believe restrictive voting laws, including those limiting early voting, have partisan goals. From CNN:
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal think tank at the New York University School of Law that has criticized the increase in what it sees as prohibitive voting laws, 16 states have passed measures “that have the potential to impact the 2012 election.”
The endgame, political experts say, is all about parties crafting laws to help ensure that their side wins. [CNN, 8/7/12]
Rolling Stone: “Republican Officials Have Launched An Unprecedented, Centrally Coordinated Campaign To Suppress The Elements Of The Democratic Vote.” In 2011, Rolling Stone detailed how Republicans have coordinated to implement new voting restrictions for the 2012 election. Stone highlighted how Republicanshadpreviously supported greater early voting access, until it helped President Obama win in 2008:
As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008.
After the recount debacle in Florida in 2000, allowing voters to cast their ballots early emerged as a popular bipartisan reform. Early voting not only meant shorter lines on Election Day, it has helped boost turnout in a number of states--the true measure of a successful democracy. “I think it's great,” Jeb Bush said in 2004. “It's another reform we added that has helped provide access to the polls and provide a convenience. And we're going to have a high voter turnout here, and I think that's wonderful.”
But Republican support for early voting vanished after Obama utilized it as a key part of his strategy in 2008. Nearly 30 percent of the electorate voted early that year, and they favored Obama over McCain by 10 points. The strategy proved especially effective in Florida, where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one among early voters, and in Ohio, where Obama received fewer votes than McCain on Election Day but ended up winning by 263,000 ballots, thanks to his advantage among early voters in urban areas like Cleveland and Columbus.
[T]here appears to be nothing to justify the changes other than pure politics. “There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud,” reports the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College. [Rolling Stone, 8/30/11]
Media Matters research interns Brian Rabitz and Brendan Karet contributed to this report.