Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 | 6:18 p.m.
Tired of all the campaign workers knocking on your door, calling you on the phone and filling your mailboxes with glossy hit pieces?
There may be one thing you can do to — at least marginally — reduce that traffic: Vote.
Nevada’s two-week early-voting period began Saturday, giving voters an opportunity to squeeze in voting amid grocery runs and campaigns the opportunity to finally launch their vaunted turnout efforts.
And while the pollsters still will call, and outside independent political groups might, too, the political party turnout campaigns may start to leave you alone after you cast a ballot.
If the sheer number of phone calls, emails and door knocks isn’t enough to make you aware of the dawn of early voting, here are a few other clues:
• Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will headline a campaign rally in Henderson next week.
• At least one Romney progeny was in the state this weekend, along with a bevy of comedians and rock stars for both political parties headlining early-voting rallies.
• Vice President Joe Biden took a swing through town last week, President Barack Obama will make a late-night appearance Wednesday and Michelle Obama is visiting the area Thursday.
• Busloads of Republicans will arrive in the state from California and Utah to help with the turnout effort. Democrats from bordering states also will arrive to play a part in a battleground state’s turnout effort.
• And at least one Democratic operative, in his exuberance to commence turnout operations, was tweeting war-strategy quotes from Marcus Aurelius and Sun Tzu.
Indeed, Saturday might have been an even more important milestone in each campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts than Election Day itself.
Saturday started a two-week sustained drive to get supporters to the polls. It began the culmination of — in the case of Democrats, years; and in the case of Republicans, months — of work identifying and cataloging voters.
By the end of early voting, the majority of people who will vote in this election will have cast a ballot.
Two years ago, 60 percent of voters turned out early or by mail. Four years ago, 67 percent of voters turned out early or voted absentee.
With those numbers, the election can easily be won or lost during early voting, not Nov. 6.
“We’re moving into the final phase of the campaign where we’re delivering the message to the voters we’ve identified after more than a year of work that Nevada is a swing state, the election is going to be close, their vote matters, and with early voting it’s never been easier to make their voice heard in support of President Obama, Shelley Berkley and Democrats down the ticket,” Democratic spokesman Zac Petkanas said.
How many voters each party actually delivers will be an important metric. Daily turnout numbers will be scrutinized by the campaigns, the media and voters for signs of strength or signals of weakness.
A dip in turnout for either party can signal sagging momentum or act as a prod to move more voters to the polls.
That game of signal reading already has begun.
In addition to visiting an early-voting polling booth, voters can also request to vote by mail. It's difficult to track absentee ballot requests because they are filed by each county and still are coming in.
But as of Friday, about 80,000 absentee ballots had been requested statewide. By Republicans estimate, the GOP had a narrow edge in those requests. Democrats' number crunchers, however, say their party has a slight edge.
Either way, Republicans argue they have a higher proportion of their registered voters requesting absentee ballots than Democrats.
“We’re overperforming registration numbers by 7 points, while Democrats are underperforming theirs by 2 points,” one Republican operative said. “We’ve effectively erased their voter registration advantage in absentee ballot requests.”
That may be, but as Democratic strategists like to point out, absentee voting makes up a scant 9 percent of turnout — hardly enough to swing an advantage in early voting and Election Day turnout.
Republicans also have requested far fewer absentee ballots than they did last year — a metric that GOP strategists have an easy answer for.
“The McCain campaign focused a lot on absentee ballots; they spent a lot of money on it,” a Republican strategist said. “This year we did not do that. There’s definitely an absentee ballot component (to the ground game), but that is not where our focus is at all.”
Instead, Republicans, with their quickly erected turnout machine, have focused more on door-to-door voter identification efforts, he said.
“We are transitioning from our voter ID phase to our get-out-the-vote phase,” Republican spokesman Darren Littell said. “The past several months, we’ve focused on identifying supporters of Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan, and we have an idea now who those folks are and where they live. We’ll make sure they get out and vote, vote early and then come back in and volunteer.”
Early voting ends Nov. 2. A list of polling locations can be found here.