Early voting is also an example of what we refer to in 2306 as policy diffusion. A policy developed in one state that is adopted by others.
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In 1977, a flood control measure on the ballot in Monterey, Calif., became what historians say was the first modern American election decided by people who voted before Election Day.
It was a strange moment even for some who participated; elections had traditionally been a kind of civic gathering, on one day.
But the practice caught on with voters, and it eventually spread from the West Coast to 37 states and the District of Columbia. Today, at least 43 million Americans have already voted in the presidential election. And when the ballots are tallied nationwide Tuesday evening, more than one-third of them will have come from people who voted early — a record.
Voting before Election Day has become so commonplace that it is reshaping how campaigns are waged, and how Americans see the race in its final, frantic days.
“The idea that one wakes up and it’s Election Day in America is actually a rather quaint idea now,” said Russ Schriefer, a Republican consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns for two decades. “It is as much as a monthlong process to draw people in. And so your advertising tactics, your messaging tactics and certainly your ground game have changed completely.”
The spread of early balloting is forging new habits that are forcing campaigns to rethink how they allocate their resources. And it tends to favor those campaigns that are more technologically sophisticated and can identify, draw out and measure its support over a longer voting period.
In Florida, a battleground state where just a few hundred votes can tip an election and victory can guarantee the White House, new behaviors are rapidly taking hold. Hispanics, who have tended to turn out mostly on Election Day, are voting earlier in much larger numbers this year, after a major Democratic-led effort to mobilize them. This is especially true among young and first-time Hispanic voters, who are just forming their voting habits and are likely to retain the practice of casting ballots early, according to those who study early voting.
That will mean that future campaigns will need to further adapt and dedicate more time and money to chasing votes up to six weeks before Election Day.