In Oregon as nowhere else, the general election campaign jumps the shark today. By now, just about all Oregonians have received their ballots, and today they begin to vote; "election day" November 7 merely marks completion of the process.
The campaign is hardly over, however: People do not cast their votes all at once. So to what extent do the remaining ads, campaigns, statements, news items and so on still count for something? A substantial amount, apparently.
We can put numbers to it. The Oregon Secretary of State's office tracks the number of ballots returned by day, and from those numbers we can pull some trends.
The patterns differ for primary and special elections, but general election returns tend to be bunched near the end. In the 2004 general election ballot returns were fairly spread out, only modestly bunched at the end (40% of returns in the last three days, out of 13 days available). But in the 2002 general election, 55% of all returns came in the last three days out of 13. And in the 2000 general, 54% arrived in the last three of 12 days, the number was 51% in 1998.
Some of this may reflect active get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns which track who has and hasn't yet voted (which is not especially hard to do), and then getting their people to send in those ballots. Some of it may reflect procrastination.
But while those late voters don't eliminate the value of late campaigning, the half or so that vote earlier do wipe out many of the late slime campaigns voters elsewhere are accustomed to.