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Early voting underway in several states 7 weeks before election day

Sept. 21 (UPI) — The midterm elections are still more than a month away, but early voting began in several states Friday.

Early voting periods from Friday to Sept. 27 began for eight states, including Minnesota, Indiana and New Jersey.

Absentee ballots have already been sent in several key states, like North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Nineteen states will have sent them out by the end of the month, and the remaining 23 will send them in October, The Hill reported Friday.

Four states start Saturday. Colorado, Washington and Oregon conduct the entire election by mail, and some counties in California, Utah and North Dakota also do their elections exclusively via mail.

“There’s been this revolution in the use of mailed-out ballots in the last 20 years, and people like us are just hoping it accelerates,” said Phil Keisling, a director of the Center for Public Service at the Mark Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.

Minnesota voters started casting ballots Friday.

“It’s like election day every day,” said Jake Schneider, a spokesman for Minnesota Republican Senate candidate Karin Housley. “It really changes the dynamic of an election. It really does. And it’s exciting.”

Experts predict more than 40 percent of all voters will take advantage of early voting this year. More than 57 million voters, or 42 percent, voted early in the 2016 election. The general election day this year is Nov. 6.

“You now have to have the closing intensity level last for three weeks instead of one four-day weekend,” said GOP strategist David Carney.

Early voting has affected races in several ways. Campaigns can look at voter rolls to know who has cast a ballot so their stumping can target the people who haven’t voted.

“You have far more ability to control the electorate, where if everyone votes on Election Day it’s more of a crapshoot,” said Mike Noble, a Republican strategist in Arizona. “As you’re updating your lists, you’re narrowing your universe” of potential voters.

Democratic strategist Dan Newman said they now have “election month” in California, instead of simply election day.

“You can’t sit on your hands and overwhelm an opponent with a late blitz,” Newman said. “By election day, a majority of voters have already voted.”


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