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As Many As A Third Of All Votes Will Be Cast Early This Year

by Scott Bittle

Friday, October 1st, 2010

As many of one-third of all the ballots in this year's midterm elections will be cast early this year, as absentee voting continues to gain ground. There's been a lot of debate over what this will mean for both the political system and our civic life as the national ritual of Election Day declines.

But Public Agenda's research shows voters' reasons for this are pretty simple: convenience, and, confidence in their choice.

When Public Agenda surveyed voters about their experiences at the polls after the 2008 election, we found little dissatisfaction about the voting experience itself. Most people said they didn't face any problems voting, and hadn't in previous years, either. In fact, polling places got good marks compared to other institutions where people transact business in person. More people (79 percent) rated their polling place as "very organized" than gave good marks to their post office (65 percent), Department of Motor Vehicles (54 percent) or fast food franchise (35 percent).

So why vote early? The vast majority of the early voters we surveyed (86 percent) said it was a matter of convenience rather than necessity, frustration or a previous bad experience. And for many, there was also a sense of "why wait when I already know how I'm going to vote?" Three-quarters of the early voters said one reason for their choice was because they had already made up their mind.

From all the opinion data, the public is in a frustrated mood this year. And the nation's system for casting and counting ballots has been controversial since the 2000 election. But so far, the simplest explanation for early voting seems to hold up: it's just easier.


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