In Texas we have early voting. Hooray for us. For two weeks leading up to the election, you can vote by mail or in person. In Austin, where I live, you can vote in any of 26 locations, open twelve hours a day including Saturday and six hours on Sunday.
I went on a Tuesday morning. It took me less than ten minutes to vote.
Of course now all you hear about is election day chaos with long lines, machines breaking down with no paper-based back-up, and voters on the west coast influenced by election returns from the east coast.
What would happen if there were no election day, just early voting?
- Voters wouldn’t be affected by state returns, time zone differences, and the news networks “calling the race for whomever” every ten minutes.
- Lines would be shorter because polling locations are open for many days instead of one. Shorter lines means more people actually vote.
- The quasi-laws requiring employers to allow employees time off to vote could extend to the extended voting period, causing less disruption as people take off different days and times rather than all at once.
- The time pressure to report results vanishes. You have at least the two weeks to accumulate numbers, plus some pre-determined number of days after that. Now you can recount close races and double-check numbers without the time pressure and scrutiny of Wolf Blitzer and the Fantastic 12.
- Some swing states in this election aren’t used to high voter turnout (Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania) and are anticipating problems with insufficient number of voting booths, long lines, and not enough back-up ballots in case a machine fails. With the voting spread out over more time, it’s easier for each location to have enough back-up paper. You could even extend the number of voting days if you needed to.
I suppose you lose the suspense and drama of voting day results reporting, but it seems like democracy would be better served.
What do you think? Leave a comment.