Why Early Election Voting is a Bad Idea
Do You Want to Vote Early?
People are voting early in increasing numbers, but it could be that early election voting is a very bad idea. In fact, it might be a downright bummer.
In the United States, you can now vote early in more than half of the states. That means you may cast your vote days or even weeks ahead of the official election day. Many states have migrated to these early voting practices over the years.
In years past a typical election would see the overwhelming majority of votes cast on election day at the polling place, with a small number of absentee ballots to count. But now, a significant of early voters are casting ballots. This may be good for some people who like the shorter lines at the ballot booth, but it might be bad news for those that voted before election day.
Why Is There Early Voting?
Early voting and absentee voting are two different things, so don't confuse one with the other.
An absentee ballot exists so that a voter that cannot cast a ballot on election day could still vote by getting an absentee ballot and sending it in by election day. This makes sense if used only when needed. For example, a person in a nursing home, a soldier overseas, or a traveler out of state might use this method. In fact, still today in many states you must actually provide an excuse as to why you can't be present on election day before they will let you vote via absentee.
Early voting is different. Instead of providing a reason for being absent, voters may freely vote at designated polling places early. In some cases that timing is quite early - well ahead of the final weeks of the election. The reasons a person votes early might be the same as the absentee voter, but states have figured that they are providing this in-person service to voters who can't make it (or don't want to) on election day no matter the reason.
What Makes Early Voting Bad?
The problem with voting early is this. Elections, particularly national elections, are very fluid. That is, things keep evolving and changing. An informed voter should want to know everything that there is to know about a candidate before casting his or her greatest freedom - the vote.
Information is constantly changing. That means as each week rolls on new information comes to light about a candidate, how that candidate stands on an issue, and what has happened in the recent past that the voter should consider.
In fact, a candidate's position can actually change in the last month as questions, debates, or other factors bring new issues into the spotlight. A voter should want to know how a candidate stands on these issues.
Another thing that keeps changing is the world around us. A major event can happen at any time and the response by the potential candidates is very telling on how they would lead in elected office. Imagine what you might learn about a candidate days before an election in the event of a real natural disaster, war, or economic situation. They would no longer be theorizing, they would be telling you what they plan to do about it when they take office.
Finally, in the case of presidential elections, a voter may want to wait for the October surprise. This is the idea that candidates keep something in their bag to release in October, just in time to sway voters for the election. Sometimes this is nothing. Sometimes it is important, but if you cast your ballot 30 days early you will miss it.
Are you in favor of early voting in addition to traditional absentee voting?
It's Your Choice
Ultimately, if you live in a state that allows pre-voting, the choice is up to you, but you should consider your options carefully before casting a ballot too early. If your only opportunity to vote is to vote early it may be you best choice. If not, think twice about early election voting.