The Campaign Spot

So What Happened to All The Early Voters in Ohio?

As noted below, I’m generally impressed with the amount of resources that the Obama camp has put into its new voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations. Particularly when you hear anecdotal evidence like this, from the usually sharp guys at 538.com:

To the uninitiated, that may sound impressive. Led by Steve Hildebrand, the Obama camp has been tight-lipped about its own numbers, as Martin’s piece notes. But the reality is that on Monday alone in just Ohio, without revealing my sources, the Obama campaign made 109,029 persuasion phone calls. From general experience, contact rates are about 25%, meaning that for every phone call or door knocked, about 1 in 4 voters gives you information about their support or about their party or what issues are most important to them in helping them make up their mind. In turn, this information re-loops into the voter file and flows downstream until it’s the final GOTV push.
Let’s do some quick math. Martin’s reporting suggests to us based on that ratio that nationwide, in one week, the McCain campaign talked to approximately 81,000 voters. The Obama campaign talked to about 27,000 in one state in one night. If we make a reasonable guess that Ohio has something like one-fifteenth of Obama organizers and volunteers, that’d be 405,000 voters contacted in one night nationwide. In 7 days, that’s 2,835,000 voters contacted, compared to the McCain 81,000, a thirty-five-fold edge.

But there’s something a bit… strange, now that we’re close enough to the election to start seeing a measurable metric of early voting:

A weeklong period in which Ohioans could register to vote and immediately cast a ballot ended Monday with turnout that didn’t quite match the expectations of election officials — or the campaign predictions that preceded it.

As of Monday evening with polling sites still open, projections were that about 4,000 to 5,000 voters in the state’s four largest counties would have taken advantage of the policy, which survived multiple court challenges.

Elections officials were surprised by the low turnout.

“With all the hoopla we were anticipating a whole lot more,” said Steve Harsman, the elections director in Montgomery County, home to Dayton.

Overall, between 20,000 and 25,000 people were expected to have voted early in person in the four counties, beginning Sept. 30. The four counties include the state’s largest urban areas — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Dayton — and the focal points of campaign get-out-the-vote efforts.

About 1,300 people had taken advantage of the opportunity in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland and is the state’s most populous.

The early voting window was expected to benefit Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, as his campaign and supportive advocacy groups drove members of typically Democratic constituencies — the homeless, college students and poor people — to the polls.

Now, look, maybe there’s a tsunami of Obama voters showing up at the polls on Election Day. But when Team Obama brings out Cuba Gooding Jr. to Toledo for a voting period touted as a “bonus” vote for Obama by local Democrats, and the end result of the five-day period is… 426 newly-registered voters, and 2,880 total voters, I’m a little underwhelmed. There are more than 307,000 in the county.

In 2004, Kerry received 132,715 votes; Bush received 87,160 votes.

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