[Image courtesy of tenthdems]
As tomorrow's Ohio primary approaches, we're seeing lots of stories about the decline in early voting rates in the Buckeye State - at least compared to 2008.
There are a number of different theories being advanced to explain this phenomenon:
- + The lack of a Democratic contest is keeping those voters home;
- + The fluid nature of the GOP contest is prompting those voters to hold their ballots until Election Day; or
- + New state laws limiting the availability of early voting are preventing would-be early voters from casting their ballots before Election Day.
So, which is it? Is the decline because voters aren't casting, won't cast or can't cast their ballots early?
Quite simply, we don't know why early voting rates are down in Ohio this time. That's a problem for political pundits but it's also a challenge for election officials, who may be looking for some degree of predictability election-to-election in order to allocate already scarce resources to various components of the electoral process.
While early voting is already a familiar concept, states' experience with it is still relatively new - with the result that it's likely too soon to tell how (if at all) early voting varies of election to election or serves as a predictor of turnout overall.
In other words, we may someday understand the relationship of early voting to Election Day - but today is not that day.