[Image courtesy of ideationz]
Six weeks from tomorrow - on January 10, 2012 - New Hampshire will conduct its traditional first-in-the-nation presidential primary - and the 2012 election will officially be "on", at least from an election administration standpoint.
The political narrative may still be uncertain, but as the curtain rises on the primary season - and the oncoming train that is a presidential election year races ever closer- here are some storylines worth keeping an eye on:
Who's paying and how much? I've already highlighted the fact that Washington State canceled its presidential primary for cost reasons - and late last week several counties in South Carolina suffered a setback in their bid to ask the state Supreme Court to force the state and the Republican Party to guarantee the cost of the state's January 28 GOP contest. Don't be surprised, however, to see more states and localities asking tough questions and making changes as necessary to squeeze the costs of presidential contests into already tight budgets.
How will presidential voters handle changes to the voting process that are new to them? American elections generally experience a significant uptick in participation in presidential years. That could be a noteworthy development in many states as voters who feel very strongly about the race for the White House encounter new voting laws and procedures that may not be new but have occurred since the last time these voters "checked in" to the election process. Voter ID is the change that's getting the most attention but there are also new voting machines, online voter registration - or even new polling places as the result the game of 52 pickup that is the impact of redistricting on election administration. It will be interesting to see if these changes are a source of confusion - or if presidential voters are sufficiently used to re-learning the act of casting a ballot that novelty is not a challenge.
What's up the campaigns' sleeves? In 2008, we saw the "coming out party" for early and absentee voting as the presidential campaigns encouraged their supporters to take advantage of these modes of voting. What if anything will be the equivalent in 2012? I have to believe that the strategists on both sides of the aisle are looking for every possible edge in their quest for the presidency; as 2012 unfolds we will finally get a peek at what's on all of those drawing boards - and have a better sense of how the election profession will need to react.
The 2012 election promises to be an exciting year for political junkies. But those of us who consider ourselves election geeks will have lots to watch for, too.
Stay tuned ... and look out for that train!