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Salena Zito: Voting in 4 States Begins Before Monday's Debate

Image: Salena Zito: Voting in 4 States Begins Before Monday's Debate

 (AP)

By    |   Saturday, 24 Sep 2016 08:50 PM

Voters in four states can cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton or Donald J. Trump before either party’s nominee takes the stage for Monday’s debate; an opportunity an additional 33 states will roll out the next few weeks ahead of the official November 8th Election Day.

Minnesota, South Dakota Vermont and New Jersey were the first four states to roll out absentee balloting this weekend; by the first Tuesday in November two-thirds of the United States will also offer various types of early voting.

Brookings Institute fellow Michael McDonald estimated to ABC News that 34 percent of voters will vote early this cycle by either using an in-person physical location or all mail ballots where there are no physical polling locations, a method practiced by three states: Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

Some experts say that is a good measure of whose voters are more motivated to show up, Dane Strother, a storied strategist for the Democrats says it is more complicated than that, "The campaign that has mastered this as part of their ground game, has essentially won the election."

In 2012 then Republican nominee Mitt Romney's campaign team famously insisted to reporters their absentee balloting outreach program had it an historical high numbers – he lost the state by just over 100,000 votes.

Traditionally, the only benefit campaigns had to use early voting was to test their turnout machine to see if their voters are showing up and how motivated they are. The likelihood that any voter who shows up early is going to regret their vote before Election Day was slim, even if there were a catastrophic event that impacted one of the candidates.

But this is not a traditional year, and these are not traditional candidates.

"It used to be that the people who vote early were the true believers; they were informed, steadfast party regulars who were never going to vote for anyone else except the person they cast their vote for," said Chip Felkel, a South Carolina-based Republican Strategist.

In short, the people who voted early were committed voters, not new voters. But in this cycle's volatile campaign where both candidates sharing nearly equal personal unfavorable marks – even among their own party supporters – it may be best for the campaigns to bank on as many early voters as possible in case the bottom drops out of their candidate's support.

"Early voting is critical," said Strother, "You can win an election on your early voting infrastructure. In short, you could be losing the voter turnout on Election Day, but already have won because of the bank of voters you already have collected," he said.

Strother, who is working on several down-ballot races across the country is convinced that Clinton will win because of the field operation in place to get out all of her voters, he said.

"They (Clinton campaign) are doing this every day, they are knocking on doors, they are setting up tables in small business districts across the battleground states that use this method, like Florida and Ohio. I am convinced she will win because of the well-oiled early voting machine they have put together."

Felkel says it's a pretty smart tactic: :As this race gets worse between these two, and it is going to get worse, banking some votes is probably not a bad idea, because as the intensity heats up in these remaining weeks and it gets uglier, it's probably better for the campaign who has some 'guarantee votes' locked down."

In our interview in August, RNC chair Reince Preibus said the technology they will be using to identify and turn out early votes where it is available will surpass anything they have done before, as well as what the Democrats are currently using.

"It's the most comprehensive ground game that any political operation's ever put out," he said.

With less than six weeks to go before Election Day, Republicans are hoping that technology will be enhanced by a new social media app will help the party attract voters, volunteers and donations to support their party's candidates.

Last Wednesday the Republicans launched the Lead Right 2016 mobile app to facilitate that goal, available for iOS and Android the data feeds into the RNC's absentee and early voting programs.

User friendly, the app allows people to message each other and also compete for prizes.

"All of this is very valuable," said Charlie Gerow a GOP media strategist based in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, "I think that the party that has mastered early voting in this particular election has the advantage, basically because of the unpredictability of the candidates and the polarization of the people," he said.

In the battleground state of Pennsylvania you cannot technically vote early, but you can fill out an absentee ballot. And you must provide an "excuse" as to why you need one when you submit the ballot in the mail.

That technically isn’t stopping Vice President Joe Biden from going to Philadelphia on Tuesday to urge Pennsylvanians to register to vote ahead of the October 11 deadline, it is likely you will hear him also encourage voters to submit an absentee ballot in this critical state.

Salena Zito covers national politics for Newsmax.

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Voters in four states can cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton or Donald J. Trump before either party's nominee takes the stage for Monday's debate; an opportunity an additional 33 states will roll out the next few weeks ahead of the official November 8th Election...
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Saturday, 24 Sep 2016 08:50 PM
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