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Is An Early Vote A Wasted Vote In Primary Elections?

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Many Americans are now able to cast their votes before the actual Election Day in their state, opting to submit an early “absentee” ballot or to cast an early vote in person. But in a presidential primary, early “convenience” voting may have unexpected consequences on the outcome of the election, and may also result in wasted votes as the list of candidates keeps changing, a fascinating phenomenon explored in an article in Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

Convenience voting offers Americans “the opportunity to cast ballots without being exposed to the information revealed in the final weeks leading up to Election Day,” explain Marc Meredith, Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania, and Neil Malhotra, Associate Professor, Stanford University.

They studied the effects of voting-by-mail, for example, during the 2008 California presidential primary and showed that early voting “affects the relative performance of candidates remaining in the race and increases the probability of selecting withdrawn candidates,” describing their findings in the article “Convenience Voting Can Affect Election Outcomes.”

Paul Gronke, Co-Editor of Election Law Journal, says that “In the past 20 years, early voting has revolutionized American elections, as voters opted for convenience over the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But early voting in presidential primaries is a much different animal, because the candidates still standing on Election Day may not be the same ones on ballots cast weeks before.” Gronke warns that “Meredith and Malhotra’s paper raises serious concerns about the use of early voting in primaries. In close contests with changing lists of candidates—as in the 2012 GOP contest—it may call into question the legitimacy of the outcome.”

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