Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Early Voting

"Appeal to their emotions. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them mad, even if they get mad at you. But for heaven's sake, don't try to improve their minds."
--Jack Burden (All the King's Men)

For the past few weeks my Twitter feed has been sprinkled with paid messages from Hillary Clinton to vote early. It is one thing for a person to decide to vote early and another thing for a candidate to advise it.

A person might vote early for various reasons. A schedule conflict on election day. Not wanting to deal with the possibility of standing in line to cast a ballot. Dislike of the polls that troll outside voting places.

The primary risk of voting early, however, is that individuals cast their ballots before all the information is in. New information could turn up that might alter voting decisions. Unfortunately, this new information can't be put to use by early voters because their ballots have already been submitted.

But why would a candidate advise people to vote early? Wouldn't a candidate want voters to weigh all information that comes in right up until election day in order to make the most informed choice?

I can think of at least two reasons why candidates would want people to cast their votes early. The first reason is that the candidate has an early lead in the polls and wants to preserve that lead by locking in supporting votes as quickly as possible. Not only does the leading candidate collect those votes, but polls that report early voting trends that favor the candidate might lead to subsequent bandwagon effects that a) push undecided votes toward the leader, or b) discourage those who might vote for opposing candidates in doing so.

The other reason is that a candidate fears that information might emerge between now and election day that paints the candidate in an unfavorable light. Better to lock in voters now before they might possibly change their minds in lieu of potentially damaging information. Grab those voters while the getting is good.

Interestingly enough, Google Trends indicates that the search phrase 'change early vote' has been trending since news broke late last week of the reopening of the FBI's case against candidate Clinton.

Candidates who seek support from the most informed voters possible are unlikely to advise people to vote early.

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