It looked like the release of a new iPhone. Across Virginia, hundreds of people lined up outside polling places on the first day of early voting on Friday. The Virginia Public Access Project is reporting that already, over 600,000 more Virginians have requested mail-in ballots than in 2016. However, political pundits warn that large increases in early voting might not affect final results that much.
Pundit Ben Tribbett told The Virginia Star, “It tends to be that people that vote the earliest also have the strongest views, so I don’t think the people that were lined up for three hours to vote yesterday at the early vote centers were people that were going to be persuaded later in the election.”
“The reality is that in voting by mail, you don’t pick up any votes unless it’s somebody that wouldn’t have otherwise voted in person,” Tribbett said. “So until we get the list back to see, are these new people who are requesting mail ballots, or are they the same people that voted in person last time, it’s hard to analyze that.”
Pundit Paul Goldman told The Virginia Star that whichever candidate is leading in the polls will likely want people to vote earlier. “It seems to me that to the extent that people are voting earlier, it ought to help Biden at this point cause he’s ahead in the polls, and so naturally if you’re ahead, you want people to cast their ballots now, you don’t want them to think about it for 45 more days.”
However, Goldman added, “If I were running, and I thought I had the best message, I’d want to have as much time as possible to get that message across to people.”
Goldman agreed that there isn’t really enough data to understand what an increase in mail-in ballots and early voting means, but he’s concerned that it could harm the democratic process. “I just find it a little bit disconcerting,” Goldman said. “It used to be, you nominate the candidate, they get the party together in September, then they hit the campaign trail for 60 days and everybody gets to judge it. And so every week in the campaign is important. Here, people are getting nominated and then a couple of weeks later, there’s voting before the first debate. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“It’s almost like nobody wants to campaign,” Goldman said. “If half the people have voted before the first debate, why even bother with a debate?”
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