Sometimes I know that I’m screaming into a howling wind, but I do it anyway just because I think I’m right. It’s a character flaw.
Take today’s blog. In honor of election day, I’ll try to make a case that we should go back to voting on one day and eliminate or scale back early voting. I know that train has left the station, but I’m going to run after it anyway.
First, the case for early voting is that it will increase turnout. But as I wrote yesterday, there’s actually scant evidence that it does. Last week, New York Times Wonk-In-Chief Nate Cohen reported: “For decades, reformers have assumed that the way to increase turnout is to make voting easier. Yet surprisingly, expanding voting options to make it more convenient hasn’t seemed to have a huge effect on turnout or electoral outcomes. That’s the finding of decades of political science research on advance, early and absentee voting.”
Second, the push for early voting is another indication of how polarized we are. The differences between the parties are so extreme that there isn’t much grey area to consider. The assumption is that you’ve already made up your mind on your candidates just based on their blueness or redness, so why wait? If voters were less certain about which candidate best matched their views, that would be an indication that the center was stronger.
Third, stuff happens. Once your ballot is cast, you can’t get it back. But what if you find out that the person you voted for took a position late in the campaign that you strongly disagree with? What if there’s a credible scandal involving that candidate?
Fourth, the assumption behind early voting is that the top of the ticket is all that matters. Let’s grant the idea that voters will know well in advance who they want to vote for in high-profile races, like president, governor and U.S. Senate. But local races tend to heat up toward the end, simply because candidates for local office have less money to spend. How many voters get their early ballot and find themselves at a loss to know much about candidates for state Legislature or other lower profile offices?
We could compromise and have “voting weekend.” Drop off boxes and a central voting site might be available starting the Saturday morning before election day and then the polls would be open for the usual hours on election day itself.
I know. This just isn’t going to happen. Early voting is here to stay. But I still think I’m right.