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.