(Host) More than 20,000 people have registered to vote in Vermont this year. And many of these new voters are expected to participate in the state’s early voting system.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel takes a look at how the early voting process could influence media strategies in Vermont campaigns this fall.
(Kinzel) Vermont has one of the most open early voting procedures in the country.
Any voter is allowed to cast their ballot within 30 days of an election – by mail or in person at their town clerk’s office. And, in fact, early voting for the state’s September 9th primary is now under way.
In 2006, roughly 20 percent of the state’s voters chose the early voting system. Secretary of State Deb Markowitz thinks the number will be even higher this year because there’s been a big jump in new voter registrations.
(Markowitz) “It’s an excellent thing and what’s really great, you know, we have a 20,000 new registrations since January. We expect to continue to see a steady flow."
(Kinzel) And Markowitz thinks a number of groups will encourage voters to cast an early ballot.
(Markowitz) “What we’re going to see this year, as we saw in past years, is that the campaigns and the candidates are going to really encourage voters to vote by mail and vote early. In the past we’ve had about 20 percent of our voters doing this…and I expect it will be the same if not greater this cycle."
(Kinzel) How does early voting affect political campaigns? UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson says there’s a basic profile of the early voter.
(Nelson) “Early voters tend to be deep partisans. They already know which candidate they’re going to support. They don’t listen to the debates or the campaign rhetoric to be convinced. They already are convinced."
(Kinzel) Nelson thinks the early voting system definitely affects how campaigns view the final weeks before an election and that many candidates fine tune their media message to reflect this new reality.
(Nelson) “So consequently you’re dealing with a less informed constituency, a less committed constituency, and a much more swingable constituency. So my guess is that emotional appeals, as opposed to policy appeals, are likely to reign in the closing weeks of a campaign."
(Kinzel) The Legislature has passed a new law that clarifies some problems that developed with the early voting system in 2006.
Voters who request an early ballot and misplace it or chose not to send it in, will now be allowed to vote on election day, as long as they sign an affidavit swearing that they never submitted an early ballot with their town clerk.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier