What to know about early voting in the 2020 presidential primaries


(CBS) – The very first vote in the Democratic presidential primaries may have been cast in Minneapolis last week. On the night of January 16, Davis Senseman was in a parking lot outside a voting center with four friends, all of whom were aiming to be among the first to vote. 

Senseman is one of about 4,500 Minnesotan voters so far to have taken advantage of early voting, which began January 17. Vermont began its own statewide early vote the next day, less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries. California, another Super Tuesday state, is launching its early voting and mail-in ballot period on the day of the Iowa caucuses.  

Within the same month of the Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada voting contests, more than ten states will have begun their early voting periods: Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Idaho and Michigan, among others.

Paul Mitchell, who runs Political Data Inc., said while people can “easily read too much into” the early vote, it’s still a good way to take “the temperature of the electorate as it develops.” 

In California’s 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by about 8 percentage points. According to Mitchell’s voter data, Clinton had a 7 percentage-point advantage over Sanders when it came to the early vote ballots.

Simon said the ebb and flow of the Democratic field is an interesting factor for early voters, since candidates could drop out before Super Tuesday.

“There may be someone who is on fire to vote for a candidate that they really, really support. But who knows if their candidate will even be in the race by March 3? So, my sense is people are hedging their bets and waiting a little bit,” said Simon. 

Everyone in Senseman’s group, except for Senseman’s son, voted for Elizabeth Warren. To Senseman, the benefit of getting votes in early is the time it saves.

“When you get 100,000 calls or emails or texts, you can always just say I already voted. Then they don’t have to spend time on you,” Senseman said. “If I get it done right away, then I don’t have to worry about anything that happens.”

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