The 2008 early vote proved beneficial to progressives, with self-identified Democrats making up a disproportionate share of the early vote. Barack Obama’s success in engaging the Democratic base and, in particular, targeting early voters was especially evident in the fact that, though 80% of first-time early voters in 2008 had voted at a polling place on previous Election Days, nearly half of the same group had never taken advantage of early voting in any of the previous four federal elections.
Certain demographics were more likely to benefit from early voting – for example, urban and African-American voters constituted a larger share of the early vote than the non-early vote, presumably to avoid notoriously long lines that are pervasive in predominantly urban and/or African-American districts on Election Day or to take advantage of the flexibility inherent in early voting by casting a ballot when their work/family schedule permits.
Though non-early voters supported both Obama and John McCain at an even 47%, Obama held the edge among early voters, garnering 52% of the vote. Thus, it comes as no surprise that, with a series of victories on voter ID legislation under their belt, conservatives are now setting their sights on restricting access to early voting in swing states – a move that targets historically disenfranchised communities just in time for the 2012 election.