Traditionally, for people involved in electoral politics, Election Day is Judgment Day, when all those strenuous efforts to win (or in the case of media and academic folk, to report on or analyze) public office come to an end as the last poll closes. Election Night, accordingly, is in all but a few rare cases the time when the judgment of the people is discerned. Political people are wired from an early age to think of Election Day and Election Night as the key moments of drama in their often tedious profession. But the old dramatic cycle is making less sense every day. With the advent of early voting, Election Day often stretches over weeks. And with slow counts caused by mail and provisional ballots becoming more prevalent, Election Night isn’t always what it used to be, either.
It will be a while before the final numbers are available, but early voting has been regularly increasing in the last 20 years. In 2016, 42 percent of the vote was cast before Election Day, either by mail or in person, and early voting represented over half the vote in 16 states, including such big states as California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. While “windows” for early voting vary by state and by type of voting, 20 states had opened up early voting by October 15 this year — three weeks before Election Day.
Campaigns, of course, understand this sea change in when ballots are cast, and have adjusted advertising and get-out-the-vote strategies accordingly. And while the news media are attentive — perhaps overattentive — to the possibility that they can divine horse-race odds from early-voting patterns, the more basic and incontrovertible fact that elections are no longer one-day events is often ignored. The old habits are hard to shake: I’ve been writing about early voting for years, but still tend to write about Election Day as though it’s Christmas and New Year’s Day all wrapped up in one glorious moment.
The mystique of Election Night — which belongs mostly to media rather than campaigns and politicians — is even more deep-seated.
Full Article: Are ‘Election Day’ and ‘Election Night’ Archaic?.