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You sure you want to attack early voting?

Greg notes the leading edge of vote suppression efforts, an attack on early voting by Phyllis Schafly.

“The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that ‘early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.’

“The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.”

She later adds that early voting “violates the spirit of the Constitution” and facilitates “illegal votes” that “cancel out the votes of honest Americans.” I’m not sure what she means by “illegal votes,” but it sounds an awful lot like voting by Democratic constituencies: students, low-income people, and minorities.
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Putting aside the tangibly racist fear that Too Many of Those People are voting – honestly, it’s refreshing in a way to see it expressed so nakedly – Greg notes that there was a brief but ill-fated effort to curb early voting. That effort was led by Rep. Patricia Harless, who was handed the ball after some more level-headed Republicans declined to carry it. In the end, the bill was withdrawn in the face of vociferous objections, all of which was much to Harless’ surprise.

Greg’s point is that bills like this often come back and are more successful in subsequent sessions. That may well be the case – Greg offers evidence that Rick Perry’s hand was behind Harless’ bill – but I’ll make the same point that I (and others) made at the time: Curbing early voting will hurt Republicans more than it will hurt Democrats.

I showed that for Harris County for each election going back to 2002, in which the GOP did better in straight ticket votes during early voting every year except for 2008 than they did on Election Day. The year 2008 must have left as deep and indelible an impression on the GOP psyche as it did on the Democratic one, because it has clearly instilled the idea that early voting necessarily favors the Dems. I suppose if you really believed that, you might want to reduce early voting hours and make more people vote on Election Day.

And you would be wrong to believe that. I looked at several other counties, mostly Democratic ones, and the pattern is clear and consistent.

Year County STR Early STR ED =================================== 2010 Bexar 56.8% 46.7% 2010 Dallas 45.8% 44.3% 2010 El Paso 36.5% 29.8% 2010 Hidalgo 26.1% 29.6% 2010 Tarrant 62.4% 62.1% 2010 Travis 41.2% 37.4% 2012 Bexar 49.4% 36.5% 2012 Cameron 31.9% 22.4% 2012 Dallas 39.1% 38.6% 2012 El Paso 30.9% 23.1% 2012 Hidalgo 22.5% 21.3% 2012 Tarrant 58.3% 54.9% 2012 Travis 37.8% 33.4%

As before, “STR Early” represents the percentage of early straight ticket Republican votes, while “STR ED” is the percentage of straight ticket Republican votes on Election Day. Annoyingly enough, Cameron County’s election archives didn’t go back farther than 2012, so I just included that year. With the exception of Hidalgo County in 2010, Republicans did better in early voting than they did on Election Day. Given these numbers, I cannot fathom why Republicans might want to reduce early voting hours. They’d be cutting into their own advantage. If they try this again in 2015, I’ll still oppose them on principle, as I believe voting should be made easier, but I at least will recognize where my best interests lie. All I can say is that if you’re taking advice from Phyllis Schafly, you get what you deserve.

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