November 4th is the official day Americans vote in the midterm elections, but early ballots are already being cast across the country. A total of 36 states, as well as the District of Columbia, began voting last Thursday.
Many of those states are pivotal to a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate including Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, Louisiana and Georgia. Iowa began early balloting last week with other states to follow shortly.
Potential voters may be confused by the frantic political activity in their state as if the election were next week. But in early voting states, many of the races are neck and neck and it is vital for the candidates to be reaching out early and often for votes. Democratic Communications Director Christina Freundich may have said it best when she said last week, “Between now and Election Day, the way we see it is every day is Election Day. Election Day is the last day to vote.”
The earlier poll times are creating a need for more campaign donations, which leads to more fundraisers and possible corruption. The entire process becomes a vicious circle for those potential lawmakers participating. The more need for money keeps candidates and incumbents on the rubber chicken circuit longer while the general public gets less of their time for the job they are being elected to hold. Elective office has become more of a day-to-day political game and less of a fulltime job working for the people’s interests. Campaign officials in both parties are making efforts to run up the score in early voting in hopes of gaining an edge.
Early voting is becoming the norm and less the exception. From the national party chairmen to the First Lady of the United States, they’re all out in early September, or even late August, providing the type of celebrity once held until the end of a bruising campaign.
Ominously, Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida who runs the U.S. Elections Project says, voting is likely to surpass previous midterm years. A good indicator is the 2010 elections. Iowa had almost 350,000 votes early. More than 400,000 ballots will be cast before Election Day this year.
Overall, 18 million Americans participated in early balloting in 2012. That is an awful lot of votes to ignore in late summer and early fall. The result is both parties are spending more and more money to get out the vote.
The RNC has gone so far as to launch a “Voter Pledge” application on Facebook. The idea is to allow people to announce their voting preferences and challenge three friends to do the same. Have we reached the level of voter insanity in this country?
Meanwhile, the Democrats in Iowa held 15 “Stroll to the Poll” events on the first day of actual early voting. It is now the norm to campaign for votes and get more personal and in-your-face as each election cycle progresses. By the time the actual voting day arrives, the voter numbers are more a trickle than a rush in early voting states. There was a storm of criticism when absentee balloting was first introduced. Now voting day locations are becoming more crowded with crickets than human beings.
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