Early/Absentee Voting Triples the Cost of Campaigns

John Fund has an important column at NRO on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s report on improving voting.  One of the commission’s recommendations: the expansion of early and absentee voting.

Fund notes the very real potential for fraud:

The use of secret ballots cast in traditional polling locations can protect voters from being pressured, and it also guards against forged signatures and other kinds of tampering. Absentee ballots are vulnerable to these problems because people cast them in unmonitored settings where family members, employers, churches, union leaders, nursing-home administrators, and others can coerce the voter, which is illegal. The ability of political parties, candidates, and independent groups to appoint observers who can monitor polling sites and the casting of votes helps guarantee the integrity and security of our elections.

No-excuse absentee-ballot laws make it easier to engage in tactics such as requesting absentee ballots in the name of low-income public-housing residents and senior citizens and then either intimidating them or casting votes for them.

He also touches on another important – and often overlooked – problem of early/absentee voting, the rising costs of campaigns:

Rather than focus their efforts on a single day, candidates now to have to maintain a full-time and fully funded pre-election operation for weeks before an election. People often tell pollsters that they think campaigns use too much advertising, take too many polls, and spend too much money. A greater amount of early and absentee voting will mean more of all three things.

Let’s do the math.  In a traditional election, an underdog campaign can marshall its resources for a big push in the final two weeks.  Smart challengers have a puncher’s chance if they can get their message in front of voters just before election day.

However, in an election that’s predominantly early/absentee, the “election” begins when the first voters receive their ballots – often 30 days before “election day.”  The two-week campaign push needs to start a full 45 days before “election day” and maintain constant messaging to the voter for a full six weeks.  That’s six weeks of mail, television and radio instead of two.

In other words, the early/absentee model effectively triples the cost of campaigns and eliminates many underfunded challengers from contention.

(It’s almost as if it were designed by well-funded incumbents.)