Pew’s latest Election Data Dispatch looks at the steep upward trend in the numbers of voters who are casting ballots outside the traditional neighborhood polling place. Using data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, the Pew team found that 26.6% of voters in 2010 cast ballots by absentee, vote-by-mail or in-person early voting – up from 19.6% in the 2006 midterm elections.
I recently had the opportunity to contribute a piece to the Election Law Journal discussing the impact of this growing shift by voters to non-precinct place voting (NPPV). In doing so, I made the following observations about the nature of the changes that accompany a growth in NPPV:
Much of the impact of NPPV has been temporal–i.e., tied to the expansion of the notion of Election Day. Traditionally, Election Day marked the only opportunity for the vast majority of voters to cast their ballots; today, Election Day is merely the last day a voter can cast a ballot. Much of the popular scrutiny of NPPV to date, then, has focused on this temporal expansion, along with its attendant effects on candidate and voter behavior.
Equally important, though, is NPPV’s spatial expansion of election administration. NPPV has inexorably eroded the traditional equivalence between electoral geography–that unique combination of candidate and non-candidate contests that comprise a voter’s ballot style–and the physical location where a voter actually casts that ballot.