'Twas late morning last Saturday when the phone rang.
It was a candidate reminding the household that, for the first time in New York State history, voters could go the polls early.
Still, this was hardly a public service announcement — as became abundantly clear when the candidate launched into a pitch for votes.
But the call came too late.
Because we'd already been there (to the polls).
And done that (voted).
Which — or so we thought — would put an end to political mailings and recorded candidate phone calls.
Early voting is supposed to be convenient to voters, but, as it turns out, it's also a boon to candidates and campaigns.
And the state-ordered upgrade in technology helps.
Gone are the tables lined with big books, through which poll workers thumbed to find each and every voter's name. The pens are gone too.
Instead, there are iPads.
Tell the worker your name, they'll pull it up from the Board of Elections database.
Scrawl your signature on the tablet, and the worker will give you what looks like a receipt.
Hang onto that, because you'll need it to claim a ballot — that, for early voting, is printed out just for you.
It felt like ordering at a fast-food chain, and waiting, some 45 seconds or so, for the order to show up.
Fill it out, feed it into a voting machine — and, bam, you're done.
Still, for candidates and political parties, the job has just began.
At the end of each early-voting day, the county Board of Elections can provide campaigns and other interested parties with a list of who voted.
Which offers a look into where voters are turning out, and where they aren't — and also into which party's voters are turning out, and which aren't.
"The data that is available is like a feast for political animals," said Nick LaLota, Republican commissioner for Suffolk County's Board of Elections.
Don't freak: While votes are private, the names of who voted are not. That was true even during the big-book, no-early-voting era, when political leaders used such information (scribbled by hand, usually on yellow-lined legal pads) to determine where they needed to concentrate get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day.
Early voting data isn't the only benefit for political parties and candidates.
Having multiple days of voting, instead of just one, helps too.
"We had to get our message out early, and we sent out information early," said Jay Jacobs, chairman of both the Nassau County and New York State Democratic parties.
"It's a first for everyone and we're hoping to see people who might not have considered voting in an off-off-year election come out because this is something new," he said.
And because there are two Sundays in the early-voting mix, Democrats in Nassau and Suffolk are hoping "Souls to the Polls" drives — in which churchgoers caravan by car to vote after services — bolster the party's early-voting tallies among African Americans.
In Nassau, local Republican committees are using social media to get party members out.
"I've always believed in the personal touch," said Joseph Cairo, chairman of Nassau's Republican Party and master of local Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, who is working his 49th political campaign this year.
"With technology, people can add that personal touch by sending messages or emails with a request for friends or neighbors to vote," Cairo said.
The extended window for voting essentially allows more time for persuasion.
"There can be more of an effort to convince people who may be infrequent voters to get to the polls," said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman.
Also, the increase in the number of voting days means an increase in workload for boards of election in both counties.
In Suffolk, the board has hired part-time help. In Nassau, according to Bonnie Garrone, counsel to the Democratic elections commissioner, "we are doing it with existing staff."
As of Friday more registered Republicans had voted in Nassau than registered Democrats; in Suffolk, the order was reversed — with more Democrats having turned out than Republicans.
But voting continues on Saturday, and on Sunday — when the state's first-ever early voting program ends at 3 p.m.
There is NO voting on Monday, as the election boards gear up for Tuesday, Election Day, when voters will go to their usual polling places — which will have iPads and the usual stacks of already-printed ballots.
As for mailers and telephone calls, they will continue, party leaders said.
Just because some people in a household or a community went to the polls early, doesn't mean there aren't other potential voters left to mine.
"You never stop working," Cairo said.
And when will we see results?
In Suffolk, early vote tallies will be included when the board posts its first results Tuesday night, LaLota said.
In Nassau — which, over the years, has been notoriously late in posting results — early voting could make a difference.
"Those results," Garrone said, "will be the first ones posted."
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