A study of voting patterns in the 2008 presidential election has a counterintuitive finding. The early voting option -- intended to increase turnout by reformers -- actually decreases it. University of Wisconsin researchers who looked at the data and who factored in things like education, race, geography and political leanings, discovered "the availability of early voting reduced turnout in the typical county by three percentage points."
The paper's authors speculate that early voting doesn't address the larger problem of election laws which require citizens to register well in advance of the election. Many people simply miss the registration deadline. In addition, absentee voters aren't susceptible to the enthusiam, social pressure -- and party get-out-the vote efforts -- that stimulate voting on Election Day. So they tend to procrastinate until it's too late.
The Bee's Rob Lewis today reported that more and more Sacramento County voters are choosing to vote by mail. Half of the county's 680,000 registered voters have requested absentee ballots for the November election. About 79,000 of these have returned ballots so far. In California 44 percent of the state's 17.1 million voters have requested absentee ballots. So far, 1.4 million of these have been returned.