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Campaigns scramble to deal with early voting deluge

Everybody’s doing it.

Rep. Shelley Berkley and Sen. Harry Reid did it last week. Even before this weekend’s voters were added, 136,000 of our fellow Clark County residents did it, too.

They voted early — and even more than that are expected to do it on this final week of early voting.

If you’re an impatient person and want to see something really scary, go ahead and vote on Halloween. It’s possible the lines to vote on Oct. 31, the final day of early voting, could be longer than those experienced in the precincts on Nov. 4.

So far, Democrats have been doubling the Republican turnout. And while some Democrats are voting for John McCain, the GOP campaign was worried enough about the lead posted by Democrats to issue an early appeal of its own.

The McCain-Palin campaign asked its supporters to cast ballots Saturday — the same day Barack Obama was scheduled to speak to a packed stadium at Bonanza High School. The final Saturday of early voting historically has huge turnout and McCain didn’t want to see the 2-to-1 Democratic advanage grow.

In 2004, Democrats had a 4.5 percentage point edge in early voting — ultimately not enough to save John Kerry from rural and northern voters on Election Day. This year, Democrats have a 25 percentage point advantage in early and absentee voting. That’s not what the Republican National Committee wants to see in a red state that’s still considered a toss-up.

Not only will this year’s early turnout keep track with the historic trend whereby more people vote early than on election day, it could actually near 65 to 70 percent of the electorate.

Last week I visited early voting sites at the Meadows Mall and Galleria at Sunset. Even on Thursday morning before the stores opened, Meadows had a consistent, albeit short, line.

At the malls, dozens of voting machines stand at the ready. No fewer than six registrars sit at tables to sign in voters. By the close of voting Thursday, more than 16,000 people had voted at Galleria and more than 11,000 had cast ballots at Meadows.

The strange thing about the ongoing campaign is that the mail and the phone calls are actually increasing during the early vote period.

It doesn’t seem to make strategic sense to drop mail this late anymore, unless it’s right before Election Day, yet valley phones are filled with robocalls from Republicans and personal “get out the vote” calls from Democrats.

This would appear to be more beneficial to the Obama-Biden ticket.

I’m sure there are people who actually saved the message from Gov. Sarah Palin. But sending out a recording lacks the personal touch of a volunteer asking if you need a ride to Vons.

The McCain campaign might figure they have as good a shot at winning the vote of a Democrat here as a Republican. So I understand their effort to target my house. It also makes sense that I’d be getting all the Bob Beers push polls since I’m in District 6.

But here’s what really shows the lack of focus by the Republicans.

The Obama campaign knows I’m voting on Election Day and they haven’t called since early voting started. The McCain campaign calls almost daily. And about twice a week I get a message on behalf of Brian Scroggins, a Republican running for the County Commission.

That might be effective if I lived in the district Scroggins was seeking to represent. A good campaign would know that I’m in a different district.

The scattershot approach may work for the presidential ticket. I live in a precinct that supported Hillary Clinton in the caucuses. But casting such a wide net for a much smaller local race is a sloppy waste of resources.

The television ads slamming Republican state Sens. Joe Heck and Bob Beers for wanting to “arm kindergarten teachers” are similarly scattershot. There is no historic evidence that television works in state Senate races.

Heck swept fiscal hawk Ann O’Connell out of office in the GOP primary four years ago because of his targeted mail.

Republican Dennis Nolan stunned the political establishment when he bested Richard Bunker for a state Senate seat in which Bunker was confidently airing television ads while Nolan and firefighters walked the district.

The continued robocalls seem to fit in to what traditionally fails — an impersonal shout-out to a large targeted audience. And the Republican robocalls telling Hispanic Democratic voters they can cast ballots by phone are simply disgusting.

I even received an anonymous robo message last week asking me if I knew that my assemblyman was having an affair. No, but I do want to know who’s responsible for the call, so I can add them to the list of ineffective tactics after my assemblyman wins re-election.

So, vote early if you will. There’s a chance the robocalls will stop.

Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at eneff@reviewjournal.com.

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