Early voting changes tactics for campaigns

By the time you read this, more than 19,000 Mesa County residents, more than 20 percent of the county’s registered voters, will have cast their ballots either through the mail or at an early voting polling location.

This trend toward early voting and away from Election Day voting has fundamentally changed how candidates campaign and work to get their supporters to the polls, according to elections experts.

Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and a longtime campaign worker, said the rise of early voting throughout Colorado has effectively transformed the traditional model of how candidates get their message out.

“The tradition used to be that you’d gradually ramp up the weight of your ads and your mail with a big crescendo shortly before the election,” Wadhams said. “We don’t have Election Day anymore. We have election month.”

He said it also forces candidates to narrow their get-out-the-vote efforts, focusing less on party stalwarts and more on unlikely or occasional voters.

Underlining the importance of early voting, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall and Congressman John Salazar, D-Colo., stopped in Grand Junction last week and pleaded with local Democrats to vote early.

“I love going to the polls on Election Day. There’s an electricity. I like to be there, but this year I already voted,” Udall said. “That is the way to make sure this election is successful.”

He added with early voting, the Democratic Party can focus on getting irregular or unlikely voters to the polls on or before Election Day.

Justin Gollob, political science professor at Mesa State College, said the expanded voting schedule, which began around Oct. 20 in Colorado, also forces candidates to show up sooner than before.

Gollob pointed to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s recent decision to hold a campaign rally in Grand Junction.

“It’s not a surprise she was in Colorado touring the state (Monday), which was the first day of … early voting,” he said.


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