Vote Early, Vote Often

Now that early voting has officially begun in the election — that shocked you didn’t it? — this article, in which the Daily Caller argues against early voting, is making the rounds. His arguments against early voting boils down to five key points, none of which I find convincing.

First, he argues that it doesn’t boost participation rates. I would agree. But while that was, theoretically, the point of the early voting laws, they have value beyond that. Early voting, like absentee voting, is convenient, especially in our mobile society. When I lived in Baltimore, I had to wait hours to vote. I’ve missed a vote because I had to be in another country on short notice. Early voting is just a fancy way of absentee voting.

He also argues that the voters are poorly uniformed because they are casting ballots before the debates. While this may be true, we have been immersed in this Presidential campaign since … well, since February 2009, really. I doubt early voters are going to persuaded by the debates. Unless Barack Obama opens the debate by killing a seal with a chainsaw, committed Democrats are going to vote for him. And unless Mitt Romney shows up to the debates with a boyfriend, committed Republicans are going to vote for him. Anyone who is going to be persuaded by the debates is going to … wait until the debates.

The third point, cost ($2.6 million for Maryland), seems trivial and is one of those costs the people have decided to shoulder. Ballot integrity, the fourth point, seems a more generalized issue. Votes are sealed until election day and there’s no chicanery with early voting that can’t go on with absentee. And you can imagine what I think of his fifth argument, the “sense of community”. The last thing I need to build my sense of community is to stand in line for five hours with a bunch of Obama voters.

But I want to pivot off this to a larger point. Ever since the 2000 election, many people — mostly embittered Democrats — have argued that we should overhaul our entire electoral process. Proposals include: elected the President off a straight popular vote; making election day a national holiday; embargoing election results until the entire country has voted (including Hawaii?); allowing felons to vote; mandating the vote; etc, etc.

I find none of these persuasive. The electoral college forces candidates to a broad appeal. Making another national holiday won’t affect people who are out of the country and I don’t see that having people standing in line for eight hours instead of working accomplishes anything. And a mandatory vote seems ridiculous. How is harassing, fining or jailing non-voters going to accomplish anything?

In the end, this all seems to be aimed at expanding the franchise, particularly to the poor, who have lower participation rates than everyone else. Maybe it’s my conservative nature, but I don’t find that argument very interesting. I’m dubious of democracy at the best of times. I don’t see why we should worry about the unheard voices of those who have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the polls. We’ve been liberalizing voters laws for years — motor voter, allowing felons to vote, early voting (which was specifically targeted at working poor). All of these were aimed at boosting participation among the downtrodden and all have failed. The Great Liberal Revolution has failed to happen. I don’t think that’s because we’re not making it easy enough to vote.

Comments are closed.

  1. salinger

    I disagree with you on the holiday idea. I think election day should be a paid holiday. Back when I worked in manufacturing it was not uncommon for several of the guys and gals on the floor to tell me they had to skip voting that morning because the line moved too slow and they didn’t want to be late to work. Opening the whole day to them would be advantageous.

    I am an early voter – this will be my third presidential election where I will be out of the country. Where I live the only convenience to early voting is that it is early. We have to drive to the county seat which is many times further than our regular polling place and the hours are traditional business hours – so someone with a regular job would have to take time off in order to take advantage of early voting.

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  2. Seattle Outcast

    Aside from the fact that the debates are totally meaningless, unless, of course, one of them does something akin to the chainsaw/seal scenario, eating a live baby or kicking puppies, you can always wait until afterwards to fill in your ballot and mail it in.

    Personally, I prefer to sit down at my dining room table with the ballot, computer, and voter’s guide and take my sweet ass time going over all the initiatives, judges statements on why I should vote for them, etc, and not have to bust my ass to some voting station to wait in line with a cheat sheet of how to vote for several pages worth of ballot.

    Early voting is the ONLY way to vote.

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  3. Screamin

    Early voting IS the only way to do it…but in today’s society, we really should take it one step further.

    Why is there even an option to still go to a polling place?

    If you:

    a) Don’t have a current mailing address or don’t care to make sure it’s accurate
    b) Can’t bubble in boxes/chads correctly
    c) Can’t read a voting guide

    WHY SHOULD YOU GET TO VOTE?

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  4. CM

    I disagree with you on the holiday idea. I think election day should be a paid holiday. Back when I worked in manufacturing it was not uncommon for several of the guys and gals on the floor to tell me they had to skip voting that morning because the line moved too slow and they didn’t want to be late to work. Opening the whole day to them would be advantageous.

    It’s always on a Saturday here, and although many people still do work on a Saturday I believe employers are legally required to provide time for someone to go off and vote.

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  5. Seattle Outcast

    My employer used to give the day off, but in the last couple years we lost that “holiday” when someone realized that everyone voted by mail and that our customers were not happy with us not being around to answer phones on election day.

    On the other hand, I’ve NEVER seen someone get written up for being late to work so they could vote. But then, I’ve never worked at a union shop during the election before. Ironically, if anyone is going to get hammered for taking time off to vote, it will be a union member that didn’t clock in on time.

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  6. Miguelito

    It’s always on a Saturday here, and although many people still do work on a Saturday I believe employers are legally required to provide time for someone to go off and vote.

    Heh.. sadly, I think moving it to the weekend would probably lower participation rates even more. Too many people hate giving up their own time and especially their weekend time.

    Employers are supposed to allow people the time to vote but I think it’s on a state-by -state basis and how do you prove it was their fault vs you not planning ahead (leaving early enough in the morning) or if someone has multiple jobs, which is required? If they both employ you a 1/2 day, both are “allowing” you time, it’s not their fault your hours are close enough together that you can’t make it. I can see arguments like that happening.

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  7. Mississippi Yankee

    The last thing I need to build my sense of community is to stand in line for five hours with a bunch of Obama voters.

    But you could utilize that time by reading your 4 essays on the pros and cons of Romney v Obama.

    Hearts & Minds Hal, Hearts & Minds

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  8. hist_ed

    Almost every county in Washington State is vote by mail only. There are drop boxes if you are too cheap to buy a stamp.

    For every national election since she was 2, I brought my daughter with me when I voted. The state changed to vote by mail when she was 17. After planning to take her to the polls for her first real vote the fucking state got rid of the polls.

    I say, if you can’t get off your ass an into a polling station, chances are you haven’t spent too much time studying up on the issues (see the post with the Howard Stern interviews). Going to the polls is a civic ritual that goes back to the beginning of the Republic. I may be going all old-guy-shaking-his-cane-at-the-kids-on-his-lawn here, but I say restrict absentees to the physically unable and overseas and no one else.

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