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Republicans Hope to Overtake Democrats Among Early Voters

For the first time ever – the state has sent applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter in Ohio and most voters who do plan to vote early will do so by mail – not in person at county boards of elections. A CBS/New York Times poll published last week reported that three times as many Ohioans who plan to vote early will mail in their ballot.

Republicans believe that gives them an opening, and they are putting more emphasis on early voting this year, says Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman Rob Frost.

FROST: “We already have more Republicans seeking to vote absentee (in Cuyahoga) than in all of 2008.”

That may not prove hugely consequential in a county where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one. But bigger potential gains for Republicans could come in rural counties. Many of those haven’t had the money to send out absentee ballot applications to every voter – the way more urban counties do.

Scott Jennings, the director of the Romney campaign in Ohio, says he’s got his sights on rural conservatives with this new-found convenience of having absentee ballot applications mailed to their homes.

JENNINGS: “We can look at the vote history of individual voters and see: Do they have a history of missing some elections? Have they voted absentee in the past? Have they voted early in the past?”

Once the campaign collects that – phone calls and personal visits follow.

JENNINGS: “Somebody gets one of these early voting applications in the mail – well, that’s great. Then they get a phone call from our campaign saying, ‘Did you get this? Will you fill it out?’ Then their neighbor knocks on their door and says, ‘Hey, I’m filling mine out, are you filling yours out?’”

Even with the carefully calibrated calls, public events and a vote-early bus tour, which includes stops in Geauga and Lake counties this week, the Romney campaign still faces a tough demographic landscape overall. Here’s what analyst John Green of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron found after the 2010 election.

GREEN: “Early voters…are more likely to be women, they’re older than the electorate as a whole, they tend to have somewhat lower income and lower level of educational attainment…Also, they tend to be somewhat more Democratic in their leanings.”

There’s one aspect about early voters that skews more evenly between Democrats and Republicans. They tend to be more partisan and ideological than Election Day voters. That usually helps in being able to make your mind up so early.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.