BAYHAM: It’s Election Day(s)!

Yes, it’s still October but Louisianans can cast a ballot in the November election at early voting locations, with some parishes having multiple sites, through the 30th.

Thirty-two states plus the District of Columbia allow early voting, which includes every state west of the Mississippi River but Missouri and Minnesota.

Oregon and Washington State don’t even have an actual election day as all voting is conducted by mail, which saves money but provides the greatest opportunities for election fraud.

Early voting is a bonanza for political machines, which don’t engage in convincing so much as hauling and perhaps providing under-the-table incentives along the way- food, booze, cigarettes or cash- for their electoral bounty.

Election Day is supposed to be when the decision is made, not just revealed. Furthermore, there have been instances where a candidate had won on Election Day but lost because his opponent ran up the score in early voting.

Early voting benefits political consultants, incumbents and well-funded candidates.

Because of early voting campaigns have to sustain a high level of media expenditures for weeks and must invest in a protracted GOTV operation rather than focus their resources on a single day.

Early voting in Arizona for the 2012 presidential election began on October 11th, 26 days before Election Day. If you had voted the morning early voting started, you would have cast a ballot prior to the vice-presidential debate (which was that evening) and two of the three presidential debates.

According to the National Association of Secretaries of State, the battleground state of Iowa along with four other states opened early voting in September, before any of the presidential debates were held.

The day before early voting began in Iowa, a Public Policy Polling survey had ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney at 44%, 7 points behind the president. The week after the first debate between the major parties’ nominees, a Rasmussen poll had Romney down in Iowa only by 2 points. Apparently Iowans had learned something about the candidates in that timeframe to cause a significant shift in the polls.

While there are people who knew they were going to vote for President Obama’s re-election in 2012 as early as November 5, 2008 (the day after he won) just as there were plenty of voters who were itching to vote for the fill-in-the-name Republican candidate before Obama had taken his oath of office, states should not encourage people to vote for president before they’ve at least had an opportunity to see them defend their records and articulate their agendas in a debate.

Voting too early is like being a juror who renders a verdict in a trial after missing half the evidence and testimony.

There should be provisions in state election laws to ensure the handicapped, servicemen and women and those who work away from home have their voices heard and their votes counted.

Having thirty “election days” is unnecessary and opens the door for negative unintended consequences, from vote hauling by professional GOTV organizations to inviting people to make uninformed decisions before the maximum amount of information has been presented.

Ideally, the eve of Election Day should be a time of reflection and contemplation about where we are and where we need to be as a country, state and community.

I’d wager that Americans have spent more time playing Angry Birds than thinking about candidates for the US Senate- the legislative body that confirms cabinet secretaries and federal judges and ratifies treaties.

The arguments for early voting have merit, mainly providing for convenient civic participation by allowing people to “get it out of the way” and reducing crowds at voting locations.

But early voting’s virtues are outweighed by its drawbacks: vote hauling, driving up the costs of campaigns and “early voter’s remorse”.

And though I am not an infrequent participant in early voting, I wouldn’t mind waiting fifteen minutes or more in line on Election Day if it meant those waiting ahead of me were better informed about the decisions they were going to make.

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