By Wayne William Cipriano
What do you think about early voting? What is “early voting” anyway?
In Missouri we do not have early voting. If we cannot get to the polls on Election Day, and we can come up with a good reason why not, we can vote as early as six weeks in advance. That is Absentee Voting. Early voting is quite different.
Early voting allows us to substitute any day we choose for Election Day six weeks (or as many days/ weeks as a state may allow) in advance for any reason, or no reason for that matter. I am not sure how many states allow early voting, but I have been told it enhances voter turnout and that sounds like a good thing. But, is there a down side? I think so.
Consider the voter who feels it is her duty to attend to all the infor-mation aimed at her so she can make up her mind fully informed: all the television and radio commercials, all the mailed political literature, all the debates, all the interviews, all the articles, and so on. And, this voter is also deeply cognizant of the sacrifices others have made so she can have a say in her government. How often do such responsible voters resolve this stress by casting a ballot far in advance, thus satisfying their patriotic duty to vote and relieving themselves of the responsibility of attending to all that election season claptrap? They have already cast their one ballot, their duty is done, further attention is moot.
Of course, the problem here is the information that surfaces after he has voted so early. It is true that some “new” information could always appear right up to the close of the polls on Election Day, but it stands to reason that the more in advance of an election one votes, the higher the probability that any early vote may be regretted.
If we study the various voting patterns of states that do and do not have early voting and then try to gather some statistically relevant although admittedly anecdotal data, we may be able to determine if early voting actually increases voter participation to an extent that the inherent potential for “early voter remorse” is positively balanced.
What may be more profitable to examine is why so many states are using early voting. Is it due to the dual stimuli mentioned above: patriotic duty and information overload? Is it as simple as not wanting to stand in line on that one day we all used to do our citizenship thing together? Is it the reduction of the importance we place on the entire exercise of voting? Something else? Somethings else?
I think that early voting, particularly early voting more than two weeks in advance, convenient and possibly voter expanding as it may be, detracts from the spiritual community we all join for a few moments every election day.
And while it is true that sooner than we think computer voting without leaving the warm embrace of our living room couches will continue the present trend of experiencing everything from church to work alone, without the physical presence of others, the longer we can make voting a somewhat social interaction as well as a celebration of unity, the better off we will be as a republic.
What do you think?