From the NYT:
In 2004, 22 percent of voters cast an early presidential ballot, and the number is expected to climb to 30 percent to 35 percent this year.
Enormous lines in Florida led Gov. Charlie Crist to issue an executive order extending early voting hours statewide from eight hours a day to 12, while in Georgia an elderly woman in Cobb County stood in the sun so long to vote that she collapsed.
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
A disproportionate number of Georgia’s 194,138 early voters are African-American, in what could be an encouraging sign for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.Also from the AJC:
As of Wednesday, about 39 percent of those voters — 74,961 — are African-Americans, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office said.
“I have not seen anything like this in America,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat, said as he viewed the long line at the Fulton County Government Center Friday evening. “To me, this is incredible.”
Mark McShane, the last person in line late Friday night at the George Pierce Community Center in Suwanee, said this election “is a choice of two roads,” between “some serious socialist leanings and some conservative values.”
The 52-year-old Lawrenceville man began his journey in line at 6:45 p.m., with a wait time Gwinnett County elections officials estimated at five hours. About 11 p.m., there were about 100 people in line. The last Gwinnett vote was cast at 11:45 p.m.
No two ways about it. This is an historic election, and for more reasons than are obvious. The sheer number of early votes cast cannot and should not be overlooked. 2008 is a de facto referendum on early voting. Thirty-two states allowed some form of early voting in this election. Those other 18 states should take notice, especially those that are considered swing states. Neither Pennsylvania nor Missouri have early voting. Personally, I'm a big fan of early voting. I've already cast my ballot. I dislike lines of any sort. But for voters to show up in droves to vote early should be speaking to American political leaders. In fact, it says a few things to me, which could be any and all of the following possibilities that I have considered.
- Voters are enthused about this election and can't wait to be part of process.
- Early voting is more convenient.
- Voters are concerned about long lines preventing them (for whatever reason) from casting a ballot on Tuesday.
- Tuesdays are a stupid day to hold elections.
- Voters are concerned about being turned away from the polls or otherwise having their registrations challenged when it is too late to do anything about it or to mount a meaningful protest.
- Voters want to feel like they are part of a community for change and therefore desire to stand in line--the longer the better.
- Voters just wanted to make the campaigning stop.