It encourages people to vote based on limited information.
Any juror who tried to render a verdict after hearing two-thirds of the trial evidence soon would become an ex-juror. Any sportswriter who filed a story with a baseball game’s final score after six innings would be sacked. So why do we urge people to vote — for president, no less — days or even weeks before Election Day?
Early voting is a political cancer that screams to be excised. Super Tuesday’s results offer a fresh MRI of this growing malignancy.
After former vice president Joe Biden earned a 29-point victory in the February 29 South Carolina primary, he enjoyed the second-most consequential resurrection in the last 2,000 years. A campaign that had received last rites suddenly leapt from its deathbed with a new spring in its step. Biden became the 77-year-old comeback kid. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., swiftly fell into line, mothballed their campaigns, and endorsed Biden.
What a nightmare for millions of Americans who considered themselves brilliant for voting early. Pity for them, they effectively disenfranchised themselves by backing horses that collapsed before reaching the finish line. Congratulations, ye of little patience.
“When Pete Buttigieg dropped out, we had a lot of voters who wanted to know if they could vote over, and later on Amy Klobuchar dropped out,” Salt Lake County clerk Sherrie Swensen told Fox News. Colorado secretary of state Jena Griswold explained bluntly, via Twitter: “If you turned in a ballot voted for a candidate who is no longer in the race, you cannot vote again.”
Some 4 million Democrats voted early in Super Tuesday states, according to NBC News’s analysis of TargetSmart’s data. Among them: 158,000 in Arkansas, 190,000 in Massachusetts, 750,000 in California, and 1 million in Texas. These surely included hundreds of thousands who whispered “Oops!” when their chosen candidates stalled.
Using Ballotpedia data, I calculate that voters checked 427,237 early ballots for Buttigieg, 272,502 for Klobuchar, and 127,369 for Steyer, among others who flamed out. These figures probably include diehards who voted for these idle contenders on Election Day. But most of these ballots likely were squandered on eventual lost causes that seemed like great ideas at the time.
Even supporters of Bloomberg, Sanders, and Warren — who all competed on Super Tuesday — might have sabotaged themselves by voting early. Some Bloomberg fans wanted their ballots back after he laid an egg at the February 19 debate in Las Vegas. Some Sanders and Warren supporters likely hoped to board the Biden Bus after his Palmetto State triumph but were stranded, already having used their tickets to ride.
It’s ironic that early voting may have cost Democrats, the chief transmitters of this disease, a U.S. House seat. On the eve of a May 2017 special election, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulted and broke the eyeglasses of Ben Jacobs, a journalist from London’s Guardian newspaper. Many of the 37 percent of citizens who cast early votes were justifiably appalled and tried to abandon Gianforte. But their ballots were beyond reach. News of Gianforte’s thuggery might have sunk him on Election Day. But the ballots of hurried, underinformed voters helped him defeat Democrat Rob Quist 50.1 percent to 44.1 percent, with Libertarian Mark Wicks scoring 5.7 percent. Nice work, Democrats!
In 2016, North Carolina’s early voting began on September 9 — 17 days before Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump first debated. This is somewhere between creepy and un-American.
Early voting also requires marked ballots to languish for days or weeks. What could go wrong?
Fraud is a genuine risk. Making early ballots disappear from overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican precincts could throw elections. Even if nothing inappropriate happens, as ballots gather dust, they generate suspicions of monkey business, especially in skin-tight races. Such doubts corrode confidence in institutions and officials.
Even among angels, storing ballots for weeks risks their innocent misplacement, damage, or destruction in fires, floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes.
This early-voting tumor should be removed and replaced with what served America spectacularly for centuries: Voters listened to debates, weighed candidates’ positions and promises, and awaited game-changing news. Then Americans gathered on Election Day (not Election Month) and jointly chose our nation’s leaders.
Yes, concentrating votes on one day would consolidate turnout and create new challenges. Moving Election Days to Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. through Sundays at 6:00 p.m. would provide ample weekend time for people to vote. Across those 24 hours, workers should be able to exercise their franchise off-shift. Devout Christians, Jews, and Muslims would find time within that span to vote without violating their religious practices. We heathens would have to pry ourselves from our favorite taverns to vote. Yes, we can!
Who would staff the polls under this arrangement? Atop the unsung precinct volunteers who supervise today’s elections, why not recruit off-duty and retired military personnel, first responders, and teachers? Their civic-mindedness makes them ideal to oversee a new system in which able-bodied, non-absent Americans voted solely on — what a concept! — Election Day.
Bucknell University’s Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.