Let the Games Begin: States Commence Early Voting

Clinton and Trump Yelling Reuters

Voters have begun to submit the nation’s First Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots, with the days winding down in the 2016 presidential race.

The government typically reserves early ballots for those who are serving in high-risk foreign deployments and other situations that make communication difficult, such as those serving on submarines. On August 28, The Hill reported that North Carolina received its first Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot from Francois Farge, a 51-year-old registered Republican living in France.

Early voting is set to begin in many states this week. The number of early ballots coming back will begin to grow as the days progress. On Friday, North Carolina’s early ballots will officially hit voters’ mailboxes. On September 15, Alabama will begin to send out its early ballots. The following week, the rest of the states will send out their early ballots to those in the armed forces and other U.S. citizens living abroad.

In-person early voting is scheduled to begin on September 23 in Minnesota, with South Carolina and Michigan joining the next day. By September 30, seven states will have early voting locations open, so voters can go in person and cast their ballots early.

Colorado and New Jersey have taken early voting to a whole new level. In the wake of the voting disaster following Hurricane Sandy four years ago, New Jersey now allows voters to request an absentee ballot without a valid reason. Colorado now mails absentee ballots to all registered voters. In states like Washington, Oregon, and California, early voting can improve the voter experience because their longer ballots – often featuring referendum votes on laws, not just candidates – can take a long time to read and understand. Thus, early voting gives voters time to read over and understand exactly what they are voting for.

Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman explains, “This year has a really loaded general election ballot, including a bumper crop of state and local measures, the White House, Congress, most of the legislature, judges and local races.” Wyman went on to say, “It is a lot to ask of our voters, and we’re pleased to have the convenience of vote-by-mail and a generous voting period, as we now think of ‘Election Day’ as being.”

According to The Hill:

The popularity of early and absentee voting has exploded in the last decade and a half. In 2000, about one in five voters cast their ballots before Election Day. In 2016, more than a third of voters are likely to cast their ballots early this year, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist who tracks the early vote at the University of Florida.