May 17, 2012 8:53 PM
TUCSON - The special election to select Gabrielle Giffords replacement in Congress is officially underway.
Mail in ballots went out Thursday for people to choose between Jesse Kelly, Ron Barber and Green Party candidate Charlie Manolakis. With more and more people skipping the polls to vote by mail, the first day to mail in your vote has become extremely important to the candidates.
Pima County sent out 184-thousand ballots and election workers said they're expecting to get back close to 80% of them. Workers also said they'll likely come back early, something the candidates said has changed everything.
Historically, when it comes to political races, Election Day has always been the most important, but now with a surge in mail-in ballots Election Day has sort of lost its luster and importance.
Republican Jesse Kelly said, "June 12th is Election Day and that day is important but early ballots has to be a day that is targeted."
Democrat Ron Barber said, "We certainly welcome people coming to the polls but increasingly early ballots are key ultimately to election victory."
Barber added especially with this random summer time election. He said, "Special elections typically have a smaller turnout than regular elections so the early balloting is even more important in low turnout election."
And that's forced some changes to the campaigns.
Green Party Candidate Charlie Manolakis said, "I didn't realize how important it was until I started getting into the campaign so now I'm having to make some special moves in my move like a butterfly sting like a bee campaign."
Kelly added, "You need to time it. You need to treat May 17th which is early ballot day, as Election Day."
And that's why you're already seeing TV ads, the candidates just couldn't wait. It made the classic home stretch heading into Election Day almost a thing of the past.
Kelly said, "You need two final pushes. You gotta push for one, then gear up and push again for another one."
We asked the candidates if they had to campaign any differently for the mail in ballots and they said not really, it's still all about the issues. They just had to tackle those issues a whole lot earlier.