Early voting, a unique feature of the American democracy, is gaining popularity in this presidential election as nearly 28 million voters have already cast their ballots in the polls scheduled for November 8. This was evident at an election rally addressed by former US President Bill Clinton in St Petersburg in Florida, where most of the attendees raised their hands in unison when asked by the state’s governor Charlie Crist: Who have already voted?
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Stephens Richard is among the 28 million Americans (as of Tuesday) who have cast their vote in the 2016 presidential elections, which is scheduled to be held on November 8.
“It makes sense. Why should I wait for the election day, when I already know, who I will be voting for. I can choose the time and day of my convenience to exercise my right to vote,” Richard told PTI last night after waiting for a few hours to listen to his favourite leader Hillary Clinton at Sanford in Florida.
In Florida, one of the key battleground states, some four million people have already exercised their right to vote.
As per some estimate in some of the key states before November 8, between one third to half of the voters would have already cast their votes.
Early Voting, is a unique feature of the US democracy wherein a voter has the option to exercise their right to vote sometime even a month before the actual day of election. Over the past few election cycle, early voting has gained pace.
The 28-million figure for early voting this year is quite impressive given that in 2012 presidential election an estimated 126 million people had exercised their right to franchise. In both 2008 and 2012 more than 30 per cent of the people cast their ballot through early voting.
“Early voting is convenient,” Clinton told her supporters at Sanford.
Clinton is a strong advocate of early voting. Exit polls suggests that she is leading in early voting.
The Democratic presidential nominee has a huge team of staffers and volunteers across the country who are pushing people to go out and vote early. “You can go to early vote in this county, in every county, and you can do it between now and the end of business next Sunday. I hope on the way over here or on the way somewhere tomorrow you’ll go to the nearest early voting site. Not far from here is the North Branch Library, one block away, on North Palmetto Avenue,” she said.
But for her Republican rival Donald Trump people going out to vote early is not good. Since he trailed badly till last week, Trump’s supporters believe early voters are Clinton backers.
The Republican establishment’s nervousness was visible when Trump raised the issue during an election meeting in Wisconsin.
“This is a message for any Democratic voter who has already cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton and who are having a bad case of buyer’s remorse, in other words you want to change your vote: Wisconsin is one of several states where you can change your early ballot if you think you’ve made a mistake,” Trump told his supporters at a rally in Eau Claire.
Referring to the recent decision of the FBI to reopen its investigations into the alleged email scandal, Trump said a lot of stuff has come out since they voted.
At least three states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota give people an option to change their early voting.
“Early voting has also fundamentally changed campaigns in other ways. Campaigns now run voter mobilisation efforts during the entire early voting period. This gives them a chance to ask more voters to support their candidate, and these contacts have been well-established to increase turnout,” said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida.
A well-known expert on early voting, McDonald attributes the rise in early voting to two phenomenon.
“More states are offering early voting options, and once a state adopts early voting more people vote early a part of their election regimen,” he said.
Agreed Sambhu Banik, an eminent Indian-American from Maryland. “This is the first time in our over 40 years of voting we witnessed such a huge line to cast vote. But we feel very good that we have exercised our citizenry obligation as each vote counts,” said Banik after casting his vote at the Potomac Community Centre, in Potomac, Maryland last week.
McDonald said early voting has changed how elections are run.
“Fewer people voting on Election Day means shorter lines and a better voting experience for voters. Election officials track early voting and share this information with the campaigns. An election pro-tip: if you vote early, the campaigns stop sending you mail, calling you, or knocking on your door,” he said.
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