Ready, set ... campaign. Early, in-person voting and voting by mail before Election Day has candidates and their campaigns more than ever courting early voters - 12 months in advance of the election in some cases, says one man who has helped many political campaigns in the Mahoning Valley.
''Essentially, a good campaign begins six months to a year with a baseline poll to understand the voters and where their heads are, where the real issues are,'' said Vic Rubenstein, owner of Rubenstein Associates in Liberty.
It's about a week before early voting begins that campaigns begin in earnest, Rubenstein said.
Tribune Chronicle photo illustration
''It's really intense, it becomes very scientific,'' he said. ''It's so important because, I'm going to guess if there are 100,000 votes in Trumbull County, 30 percent will vote early. The big thing is the identification of the absentee voter and motivating that voter.''
Early, in-person voting in Ohio at boards of election begins Tuesday. Also, mailed ballots for most Ohioans who wanted one will start being sent this week.
So far, about 12,000 applications for an early ballot have been made to the Trumbull County Board of Elections, and although its difficult to predict what the turnout will be for early voting, Kelly Pallante, elections board director, said the county has ordered 50,000 ballots that will be used in the mail and in-person voting.
Show up early
Early, in -person voting begins Tuesday. The Trumbull County Board of Elections will be open extra hours:
Tuesday - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 9 - 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Oct. 10-12 - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 15-19 - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 22-26 - 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Oct. 29-Nov. 1 - 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In Mahoning County, absentee ballots are made on demand, said elections board deputy director Tom McCabe. So far, though, they've processed about 21,000.
Both counties have seen greater early voting activity because of an initiative by Secretary of State Jon Husted to send absentee ballot requests to every registered voter in Ohio this election. The first round went out after Labor Day and there will be a second round for people who registered or updated their registration after Aug. 6.
In 2008, Trumbull County had about 25,000 absentee ballot requests, including 14,000 by mail.
In Mahoning County, they had about 45,000 requests four years ago. Then, the elections board, sent a ballot application to all registered voters in the county.
''We're on pace to hit 45,000 applications again, very comparable to four years ago,'' McCabe said.
Those are voters that campaigns need to reach quickly, Rubenstein estimates that voters will vote within 72 hours of receiving their ballot.
''We want to communicate with that voter in as many different ways as possible,'' he said. ''Really, the voter who has the most information, the candidate who provides the most information is the candidate that is the most likely to get that vote if there isn't already a preconceived notion.''
Jim Fogarty, whose production company 2 Ticks & The Dog has done promotional work for several candidates, said campaigning early gives the candidate in edge in name recognition and also boosts fundraising by legitimizing the campaign.
''It's the old adage, the early bird gets the worm,'' Fogarty said.
Still, one political expert says although its true campaigns are starting earlier and earlier, they still seem focused on one last big push in the month leading to Election Day.
''I don't know if they have altered their strategies because people can vote early,'' said Paul Sracic, chairman of the political science department at Youngstown State University.