Forget about the presidential debates this week or a possible October surprise that might change their minds. Iowa residents are ready to put the presidential campaign behind them. More than five weeks remain before the presidential election, but voters in Iowa started lining up with their ballots in hand ready to cast their vote Thursday.
Iowa became the first state in the nation to open in-person early voting as lines formed at a grocery store, library, churches, union halls, college campuses and other polling places around the state. Thirty-two states will allow some form of in-person early voting this year in a trend that can determine campaign strategy. Four years ago, a quarter of the voters cast ballots before Election Day, and there are reasons for campaigns to take advantage of the practice.
Using registration rolls and prior voting records, campaigns can identify potential early voters and direct literature, phone calls and get-out-the-vote resources to them. Michael McDonald, a professor at George Mason University, said that early voters tend to be hard-core partisan supporters.
That could favor President Barack Obama, who was leading Republican Mitt Romney in the opinion polls in the race for Iowas six electoral votes. More than a third of the states votes cast in 2008 were early ballots.
Once potential supporters have voted, campaigns can redirect resources to other voters and get-out-the-vote drives on Election Day.
For the voters, the convenience of early voting means a choice of when to cast ballots and not having to stand in long lines or deal with other hassles on Election Day. And maybe an end to annoying robocalls and a mailbox full of campaign literature that ends up in the recycling bin.