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The impact of early voting on 2012 campaign strategy

A woman casts her ballot during early voting on October 1, 2008 in Toledo, Ohio.
A woman casts her ballot during early voting on October 1, 2008 in Toledo, Ohio.
J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

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Presidential voting starts now… at least for some. Most American voters won’t actually cast their votes for the presidential election until November 6th, but walking into a neighborhood polling place on Election Day to pick elected officials is becoming more rare. Constituents in at least 30 states will be able to start casting early or absentee ballots in the race by the end of this month — a fact that weighs on the campaign strategies for both major parties.

Four years ago, just under 40 million people — about 30 percent of all eligible voters that year — voted early, and experts expect that number to be even higher in 2012. In most of the 2012 battleground states, at least half of all votes will come in early, according to campaign officials. In person voting starts Thursday in Iowa and two-thirds of voters are predicted to vote early in North Carolina. California is not a battleground state in the 2012 election map, but roughly half of Californians are expected to vote before November 6th.

As a result of early voting, the campaign ad wars, which in the past have peaked toward the end of October, are expected to culminate by the first of the month - before the candidates face one another in any of the four scheduled debates. Locking in votes early can insulate candidates from last-minute campaign blunders, but early voting also gives nominees less time to win over undecided voters leaning toward the opposing side.

Will early voting help or hurt the Obama and Romney campaigns? What can candidates to do persuade voters to vote for them while the contentious campaign season rages on?


Jonathan Wilcox, Republican Strategist; former speech writer for Governor Pete Wilson

Darry Sragow, attorney and longtime Democratic political strategist