get out the vote

Probably the best and most poetic description of what happens on Election Day was written more than half a century ago by the journalist and historian Theodore White.

“It was invisible, as always,” he began his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, "The Making of the President 1960."

“By the time the candidate had left his hotel, several million had already voted across the county – in schools, libraries, churches, stores, post offices. All of this is invisible, for it is the essence of the act that … it is a mystery in which millions of people each fit one fragment of a total secret together, none of them knowing the shape of the whole.”

That’s what’s happening today in Michigan, and around the nation. We think this may be the closest governor’s race since 1990, but we don’t really know.

We think the U.S. Senate race will be a decisive victory, but we don’t know that, either. We do know that there are candidates today who fully expect victory, but who will taste the bitter ashes of defeat, and there are others who will be surprise winners.

But we won’t know who for hours yet. Voting is, in a way, the secular equivalent of the confessional in the Roman Catholic Church. You can say whatever you like to your friends, but in the final analysis nobody but you will ever really know how you voted.

Tuesday may be primary election day, but the truth is we’re already off to the races. The voting has begun. Absentee voting. Absentee ballots are the first ballots cast, but the last to be counted on Election Day. And more and more they can make the difference between winning and losing.

That’s because voting absentee is on the rise in Michigan -- nearly doubled over the past 10 years. More than one in four (27 percent, to be specific) of the ballots cast in 2012 were absentee. And that’s why the smart campaigns focus early on absentee voters. They keep track of who requests an absentee ballot, and then quickly steer campaign propaganda in that voter’s direction.

It is also why the Michigan Democratic Party -- with an eye toward November -- has been quietly carrying on an absentee voter experiment. Voters in Detroit and Lansing, can now apply for their absentee ballots online.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Democrats and Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure as many of their fellow state residents as possible show up at the polls.

GOP spokeswoman Kelsey Knight says campaign staffers and volunteers are knocking on 200,000 doors and making 500,000 calls in this final week alone to encourage voters to show up. And to vote Republican, of course.

Democrats are doing the same, but they didn't provide specific numbers.

It's not clear what voter turnout will be like in the state, though.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Political campaigns in Michigan are turning their focus to getting out the vote.

In campaign offices across Michigan, a small army of volunteers is busy calling voters just to confirm who they’re voting for.

In the basement of the Michigan Republican Party headquarters, volunteers use telephones which automatically dial the telephone numbers of eligible Michigan voters. 

When someone answers the phone, the volunteer’s first question is “If you are going to vote…are you going to vote for Mitt Romney…or Barack Obama?”