Early Voting “Exit” and Tracking Polls? A request for information.

I just got back from an NCSL conference in beautiful Aspen, CO (take that Mike!). I gave a talk on–you guessed it–early voting. The audience was made up of 50 of so state legislators around the country who either chair election committees, or in many cases, were the chamber leaders and were interested in election issues.

In my talk, I included one of my standard policy recommendations: if states are going to introduce early voting (relaxed absentee requirements or in person early voting), then make the information about who has voted early easily and cheaply accessible. This will level the campaign playing field and free citizens from the hassle of being canvassed once they’ve already voted.

One legislator from Minnesota came up to me after my talk, quite concerned about my suggestion. “Wouldn’t candidates could take advantage of these records by conducting ‘exit polls’ of absentee voters?”

My response was that I had heard some rumors of this occurring in California in 2004. And I’m sure that campaigns will be doing this in 2008.

This is not something that I particularly like. Imagine that you are Bill Richardson lining up to run the 100 meter dash against Hillary Clinton. You already know that she’s taking steroids–she has campaign funds that far outstrip your own.

But with early voting, she’s also starting the race somewhere in front of you. Thing is, you don’t know how much she’s ahead. It’s like there is a big veil in front of the starting line–she has the poll results and you don’t.

Seems to me that any campaign without lots of funds–and that means anyone besides Clinton, Obama, Guiliani, and Romney–is facing that veil in CA and FL.

If anyone has solid information on campaign conducting early voting “exit polls” using the absentee or early voting lists available from county governments, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to email me at paul@earlyvoting.net.