It’s too early to write a story about early voting turnout

I’ve been chiding my good friend Michael McDonald for promoting early voting returns on the Election Law listserv.  In one posting, he refers to “tantalizing” early returns from North Carolina.

Michael does a great service to all of us by posting these data, and by providing the best turnout and voter registration data available.  However, my concern with these early results is that reporters won’t realize–as I’m sure Michael does–that these early votes constitute a tiny part of the overall returns, and even of the early votes.  In North Carolina, for example, only .3% of ballots have been cast (using 2006 as our baseline).  In Maine, 2.3% of ballots have been cast.

Our analysis of many states in 2006 and 2008 shows that typically less than half of the early votes (not total votes–early votes) are cast more than seven days prior to the election.

Given that we already know that Republicans tend to use no-excuse absentee voting at a much higher rate anyway, it’s dangerous to conclude anything from these very early figures.  I’d wait at least until Monday the 18th or better, Monday the 25th, before writing the inevitable early vote story.