1 vote

Early Bird Gets the Delegates

Romney’s mastery of early voting made it nearly impossible for his less-organized, less-moneyed rivals to ever beat him.

The political media may have welcomed the closing of polls on recent evenings in Florida, Michigan, Arizona, and Ohio with an air of suspense, but the members of Mitt Romney’s team knew they already had more votes than their opponents. In the case of Florida, Romney’s advisers believed Newt Gingrich would need an extraordinary Election Day performance to catch up; in Arizona, they were certain it was mathematically impossible for either Gingrich or Rick Santorum to do so. Even a late surge or Romney’s own collapse was unlikely to redraw the outcome. “You want to get as many people to vote absentee-ballot as you can—it saves money and banks votes,” says Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director. “So no matter what happens in the last week you have votes in the bank they can’t take away.”

Once-meaningful distinctions between early voting, voting-by-mail, and absentee ballots are being erased as 32 states now offer voters the chance to cast their ballot before Election Day without a justifying excuse (as traditional absentee balloting required). It probably amounts to the most radical change to American voting culture since the abolition of poll taxes. In 2008, one-third of Americans are believed to have voted by a method other than showing up in person at a polling place on the first Tuesday in November, some doing so as early as September.


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