Monday, October 25, 2010

A Vote Against Early Voting ... Sort Of

The date of my birth meant everything to me, obviously. Not just because I wouldn’t have been here without having one, but because it defined the first third of my life. Driving age, drinking age, draft status and voting age.

No one but an aging actress or a Dominican ballplayer would think of changing a birth date, so why is our nation’s most sacred day -- Election Day -- now considered to be any old time within a couple of weeks before the calendar page flips.

I am talking about the trend by which more than half the states allow people to vote early.

This is a terrible idea for several reasons:
  • It robs an increasingly fragmented polis of the one shred of civic unity left – showing up at the same time and the same place to exercise the single most significant act we do as a nation. Election Day ought to be according a place as the most reverent holiday we have. Independence Day means nothing without it.
  • Early voting cuts short the actual campaign in a way in which neither candidate nor voter has enough information; the candidate as to who is persuadable and the voter as to last-minute information that could be a mind-changer. I mean what if my state senator is learned to really be soft on child molesters as his opponent claims.
  • It could lead, over a one, two- or three-week period, to fraud – previously limited to the mischief that could fit only into a 12- or 15-hour day.
The only thing in favor of early voting is that it is another step toward universal suffrage.

It is no secret that since this nation was founded, barriers have been erected to prevent full participation of the people and to keep the business of government in the hands of business. “Free, white and 21” used to be the standard for voting and then only if you were a male. Poll taxes, Jim Crow laws, crowded polling places, short hours, lack of child care and outright intimidation were all tactics employed to keep the powerful in office. Over time, blacks, women and 18-year-olds were given the vote. So the move toward early voting was seen as another step toward increasing participation in elections.

The other thing in its favor is it helps Democrats, as they generally have a base that is harder to turn out than Republicans.

In all honesty, however, I am not sure I like the idea of efforts to encourage voting by people who would not have the means, desire or brains to vote on Election Day. While I am for expanding opportunities for everyone, I kind of think policy ought to be made by people who care. Besides, if I can't file my taxes without penalty on April 16, why should I be allowed to vote Nov. 1? And if we want to make sure everyone has the time to vote, the perfect answer is 24-hour voting on a single day.

Having said that, I admit to voting today at a central location eight days before most of my precinct neighbors will. I did so because I am scheduled to return from the World Series on Tuesday, and if the flight is delayed, I may not make it in time.

I had the time to travel to the central location at mid-day because I am not now working, thanks to an administration that imposes Chicago-style politics on the civil service. So while Obama is not on the ballot, I voted against my incumbent Democratic senator and my incumbent Democratic Representative. It made me feel powerful for a moment, and it will do no harm since they will be re-elected easily without me.

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