Early voting has increased in popularity in states where it is available, especially in this election cycle when the excitement about the prospects for an African-American gaining the White House has generated an anticipated record voter turnout.
Today, 34 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to cast ballots earlier than Election Day. It benefits those who are either away from home — especially the nation’s 16 million college students — others too busy to vote on Election Day, or those who want to avoid waiting in long lines. Indeed, since late September, many voters have been lining up for the opportunity to vote early.
In Nevada, for example, early voting is made more convenient than in any other state. Voting machines have been strategically placed in areas that citizens routinely visit, such as shopping malls and grocery stores.The early-voting process originated during the 1860s with absentee balloting available only to soldiers who were away from homes during the Civil War, launching a new idea that gave soldiers the opportunity to cast votes in battle.
According to Paul Gronke, director of the Nonpartisan Early Voting Institute in Portland, Ore., early voting gained ground in the 1980s when states, including California and Oregon, experimented with the idea.
“After the 2000 election crisis, big Eastern states such as Florida and Georgia began to use early voting in their elections”, Groke said.
Groke also explained that there was no proven reason why some states offer early voting while others choose not to.
In some states, early voting practices vary from county to county. In California, in-person early voting is available to citizens of San Francisco County, while nearby Sacramento County conducts mail-in early voting.
Sacramento voter Brionna Hinton said that if in-person early voting was offered in her county, she “would have voted early to avoid the lines on Tuesday.”
“Being that it’s my first election, it has personal historical value to me,” Amelia Reid, a sophomore at Howard University, said about being given the opportunity to vote away from her Teaneck, N.J., home.