When Time Isn‘t Money: An Analysis of Early Voting and Campaign Spending

Zakahi , Philip J.

In an October 1, 2008, Washington Post piece titled, "Nov. 4 Isn‘t the Only Election Day; Campaigns Adjust as Early Voting Rises," Mary Pat Flaherty outlines the tactics major party presidential campaigns use to win over "electoral gold"—the "early voters" who take advantage of laws in thirty-six states allowing them to vote before Election Day. In some states, a majority of voters now cast their ballots before Election Day, and media reports like Flaherty‘s suggest campaigns have adjusted to the increasingly large number of early voters. They use specially targeted ads and get-out-the-vote operations to reach voters who might vote early. Scholars, however, have yet to adjust their work to incorporate these changes in campaign practices. While there is a large body of literature exploring the changes in turnout and electoral demographics due to early voting, there is almost no research examining the role of early voting in campaign behavior. This appears particularly important for scholars examining the role of campaign expenditures on electoral outcomes. Existing work simply does not account for a world in which a large number of voters have cast their ballots before campaigns have spent 100 percent of their funds. This study begins to fill that gap by demonstrating that candidates do spend money earlier in states with early voting and offering evidence to suggest this early spending may not necessarily give candidates an electoral advantage. The first finding helps to validate the claims made by campaign experts and news media about the impact of early voting on campaigns. The second finding can guide the spending of campaigns in states where there is early voting and candidates may be tempted to spend their funds early. Together, they challenge the academic literature to account for the growing role of early voters.


Also Published In

Journal of Politics & Society

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Academic Units
Helvidius Group
Published Here
October 5, 2011