The early voting trap

Voters cast their ballots in Stone Mountain on Election Day 2014. (AJC Photo / Kent D. Johnson)

Voters cast their ballots in Stone Mountain on Election Day 2014. (AJC Photo / Kent D. Johnson)

Some Atlanta voters go to the polls Tuesday not knowing whether a vote for one particular candidate would even count. Tyrone Brooks Jr., one of seven people vying to fill the seat his father held for 34 years, may not meet residency requirements; he was deemed disqualified last Monday, but a judge later ordered that he remain on the ballot pending a Thursday hearing.

At least those who show up to vote Tuesday are aware the younger Brooks’ candidacy is in limbo. That wasn’t the case for those who voted in advance.

At least 350 people voted before Brooks’ qualifications were called into question; as many as 100 more cast their ballots thinking he had been disqualified. The past dozen special House elections in Georgia have drawn an average of just 2,716 voters, so 450 is a substantial number.

Early voting has come to be considered sacrosanct, with any reduction in voting days regarded as an attack on the republic itself. But as the Brooks case demonstrates, the earlier you cast your ballot, the less time you have to learn information that could sway your decision — at least, in theory.

I add that qualifier because, in reality, early voting is favored not by those who are genuinely persuadable, but by committed partisans who probably wouldn’t change their minds no matter what revelations came to light about their preferred candidates.

(Here I should note that, while early voting in Georgia tends to be favored by Democrats, most of my criticisms also apply to absentee voting, favored by Republicans.)

That’s why I find it no coincidence our politics has grown more polarized as more and more people have cast their ballots early.

Modern campaigning is largely about identifying, motivating and turning out one’s base of supporters. A longer early voting period gives candidates and parties more time to concentrate on getting their most committed voters to the polls before Election Day. It’s not uncommon for campaigns to start targeting their party’s supporters for advanced voting almost as soon as the primary is over.

A base-turnout strategy isn’t limited to tactics. Where time, money and other resources go, you’ll usually find stump-speech rhetoric as well.

While it’s no wonder political parties and candidates like extended advanced voting, it’s not so clear the rest of us should value it so highly.

Yes, there’s a public interest in allowing people to cast ballots on more than one single day. Some people have to be out of town on Election Day. Others’ work schedules keep them away from their polling places during daytime hours. And limiting voting to one day can create long lines in some places.

But let’s be honest: Most of these situations don’t require three weeks of early voting plus an even longer period of “no reason” absentee voting.

If we were really concerned about access, we could stage 24-hour voting for the last four days of an election (that’s a weekend plus two weekdays) and allow absentee voting for those who couldn’t still couldn’t make it to the polls.

That would give people more time to learn about the candidates — or, as in Brooks’ case, to see if the candidates remain on the ballot — rather than getting caught up in partisan appeals.

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
straker
straker

Kyle, there's no reason Republican candidates can't benefit from early voting, is there?

Caius
Caius

"That would give people more time to learn about the candidates..."

In my limited opinion, a majority of US voters know this very day that on election day 2016 they will vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate for whatever office no matter who says what about anybody. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I couldn't find much on the party preference of Absentee ballot requesters, but in this example from Ohio, it is not a slam dunk like Headley boasts, that the GOP is the party of the absentee ballot.  In 2012, it seems in Ohio the Dems were the absentee ballot party.


http://thirdbasepolitics.blogspot.com/2012/09/absentee-ballot-data-not-looking-good.html


So far this year, there have been 528,197 applications sent in for absentee ballots. The party breakdown at this point is 29% Democrats and 23% Repulicans. The difference is down to 6 points. For the Ohio Democratic Party who was counting on matching their early voting performance from 4 years ago, that's very bad news.

MHSmith
MHSmith

The DEMS after winning everything political for 100 years now want to change the very rules they made and won elections by, because now they are constantly losing year after year.



Karma DEMS, Karma


HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

A conservative U.S. circuit judge, Richard Posner, in a recent scathing critique of these laws, calling the expressed concern about fraud a “a mere fig leaf” and that they instead “appear to be aimed at limiting voting by minorities, particularly blacks.”


“There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud,” Posner wrote, “…and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”


Not to get off subject but Conservative judge Mr Posner nailed that one.


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/government-elections-politics/why-voter-id-laws-arent-really-about-fraud/

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar Conservative?  Well he tried that for awhile it seems, before abandoning that philosophy.  Sounds like another turncoat like David Souter.


from Wiki


Today, although generally viewed as to the right in academia, Posner's pragmatism, his qualified moral relativism and moral skepticism,[9] and his affection for the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche set him apart from most American conservatives. As a judge, with the exception of his rulings with respect to the sentencing guidelines and the recording of police actions, Posner's judicial votes have always placed him on the moderate-to-liberal wing of the Republican Party, where he has become more isolated over time.[10]

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@RafeHollister @HeadleyLamar It is noted Rafe that there is no such thing as a moderate or liberal wing of the Republican party anymore


So you are correct there.


I doubt he has moved as much as the party moved away from him.


On October 27, 1981, Posner was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated by Philip Willis Tone.


In July 2012, Posner stated, "I've become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy."


Goofy indeed Mr Posner. 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

24 hour voting sounds unworkable to the people/volunteers working the election. 


Three weekends with both Saturdays and Sundays before the Tuesday election should suffice to reduce the long lines on election day. 8 hours each of those weekend days (say 10-6) should keep elections manageable by the volunteers who staff the stations. 

I don't see getting rid of or changing absentee ballots as workable either, other than making free overnight delivery standard to allow the latest possible procrastinators time to get their ballots in. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

What I see here is a  whining DEM  ranter in a ridiculous continuum of  sore loser belly aching teetering  on the edge of angry name calling who lost a political race and now want to stack the deck and change the rules rather than muster the moxie to play and win by the rules as written.


Man up! 



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

The proggies always bring up the absentee voting requirements, which are often abused as they say, but what they don't tell you is it abused by both sides.  In the rural areas, self appointed do-gooders, get forms filled out, drive to the appropriate office and obtain absentee ballots for all the folks they have influence over.  They then stand over these folks and "help" them complete their ballot.  They turn in these ballots by the handfuls.   Yes, some of that to a lesser extent happens on the other side.  With all the early voting available, there is no need for some of these folks not to show up somewhere and vote, they just take the lazy way out and let someone bring them a ballot and carry it back for them.


The whole process, from the ballot, to the registration process, to the easily hacked voting machines is subject to fraud.  I'm with Headley on this, eliminate early voting and have a weekday/weekend day two or three day election.  Voting 45 days ahead is just undeniably a poor way to do things, when news breaks daily, changing issues and debates, and candidates are often exposed during the last week of an election.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@RafeHollister The proggies always bring up the absentee voting requirements, which are often abused as they say, but what they don't tell you is it abused by both sides.


(Here I should note that, while early voting in Georgia tends to be favored by Democrats, most of my criticisms also apply to absentee voting, favored by Republicans.)


Kyle disagrees.


I'm with Headley on this, eliminate early voting and have a weekday/weekend day two or three day election. 


Its a commons sense change that absolutely should happen. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar You didn't but you correctly noted Republicans are far more likely to use absentee ballots.


I would assert the level of fraud is in proportion to use. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar You're stating my position on something I haven't talked about. That's what I'm pointing out.

If you want to talk about fraud via absentee vs. early voting, feel free to post some evidence.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@RafeHollister 


“In the rural areas, self appointed do-gooders, get forms filled out, drive to the appropriate office and obtain absentee ballots for all the folks they have influence over.They then stand over these folks and "help" them complete their ballot. “


Kyle: “…absentee voting, favored by Republicans.”


So that’s how the Republicans do it !


HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/government-elections-politics/why-voter-id-laws-arent-really-about-fraud/


Frontline did an excellent special on that very thing. ( absentee fraud vs fraud at the polling place )


A FRONTLINE analysis of voting laws nationwide found that only six of the 31 states that require ID at the polls apply those standards to absentee voters, who are generally whiter and older than in-person voters.  And two states with strict photo ID policies for in-person voters — Rhode Island and Georgia — have recently passed bills that allow anyone to mail in a ballot.


Voter fraud generally rarely happens. When it does, election law experts say it happens more often through mail-in ballots than people impersonating eligible voters at the polls. An analysis by News21, a journalism project at Arizona State University, found 28 cases of voter fraud convictions since 2000. Of those, 14 percent involved absentee ballot fraud. Voter impersonation, the form of fraud that voter ID laws are designed to prevent, made up only 3.6 percent of those cases.



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@MarkVV @RafeHollister The example I cited most often occurs with folks working for the Democrat party or unofficially trying to help the Democrat cause.  As the stereotype goes, GOP voters tend to be big on self reliance and fierce independence.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@RafeHollister


Funny Rafe, how these DEMs, after 100 years of winning nearly every election in the state under the same rules of law want to changes those rules only after, once the tables have turned on them and the political wind has shifted against them.


Karma DEMs, Karma.   

MarkVV
MarkVV

@RafeHollister @MarkVV 

And you, of course, have the evidence and the statistics showing that to be a fact? Come on,, all you have is your prejudices.  

MarkVV
MarkVV

What we see here again are comments from self-righteous people, who judge everybody but what they see in their social circle. They can easily make time to go to vote anytime, so why not everybody? The one thing they fail to submit is any rational reason, why voting should be restricted to a short period of time.

Dusty2
Dusty2

This whole thing is crazy.  (I'm trying NOT to say stupid!)  Why can any politician up for vote decide to fill his seat with a family member?  Nobody voted to put a family member anywhere.  Now some judge is saying" Eenny, meenny, miny mo  is this  candidate one for shore! Let us go ahead and vote!  I'll not be the one to DEMOTE  0r vote  or something!"


Elections were not made for the elevation of sons and daughters. They are made to give the citizens a legal selection.  Would somebody(?) please  remind somebody(?) that is why we have elections!


As for early voting.  I go to miss the lines.  Yawnnnnnn........ 

MHSmith
MHSmith

If you can't get your voters out to the polls within the time allotted, tough. That's why this thing is called a RACE. Either bring all got at the start or just concede to the other side who brought all of their to the polls and voted according to the rule of law within the set beginning and ending dates. 


Otherwise you just got a bad case of sour grapes hurting your belly. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

If we were really concerned about access, we could stage 24-hour voting for the last four days of an election (that’s a weekend plus two weekdays) and allow absentee voting for those who couldn’t still couldn’t make it to the polls.


I agree that should happen. But it wont.


So early voting has to stay. The fact we are still voting on a Tuesday when most people are working is crazy.


I can only think of one reason why it would be kept on Tuesday. To keep turnout low.


http://www.whytuesday.org/answer/


In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections.


The fact such a system still determines WHEN we vote is just crazy. 



LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Democrats favor dragging out the voting process because the amount of shenanigans they can pull is directly proportional to the amount of time allowed for voting.  And Democrats like voting the dead using absentee ballots too, so don't buy into their garbage about Real Americans being the only ones who favor absentee voting.

Voting should be one day, 24 hours if necessary.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@LilBarryBailout Democrats favor dragging out the voting process because the amount of shenanigans they can pull is directly proportional to the amount of time allowed for voting.


There is MUCH more fraud ala absentee balloting.


"They Cheated!" is just a way for Republicans to feel better when they lose elections. They can say hey it was that voters rejected our message. The Democrats just cheated !!!


But in reality fraud at the polls is incredibly rare and even the few cases are usually someone voting at the wrong polling place etc. 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@HeadleyLamar @LilBarryBailout

I'm quite aware of the absentee-ballot fraud committed by Democrats.

Fraudulent voter registration is just the first step, and Dems have been busted quite frequently for it.

MHSmith
MHSmith

People who want to vote have no problems getting to the polls and voting within the current dates setup.



With rare exceptions ballot extensions are political nonsense. 


I'm against extended voting in general. I feel there is nothing to be gained from it.  

MarkVV
MarkVV

@MHSmith 

"People who want to vote have no problems getting to the polls and voting within the current dates setup."


And how would you know that?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@MHSmith

Curious that you've completely ignored the absentee balloting part of the equation.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@MHSmith People who want to vote have no problems getting to the polls and voting within the current dates setup.


Not true. 


Today, we are an urban society, and we all know how hard it is to commute to our jobs, take care of the children, and get our work done, let alone stand on lines to vote. Indeed, Census data over the last decade clearly indicates that the inconvenience of voting is the primary reason Americans are not participating in our elections.


http://www.whytuesday.org/answer/

PinkoNeoConLibertarian
PinkoNeoConLibertarian

@Visual_Cortex @MHSmith As does Kyle's "solution". He makes a passing note that his criticisms are for absentee balloting as well, but his solution does not speak to that at all, only to the early voting part of the equation.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@PinkoNeoConLibertarian The implication in "those who still couldn't make it to the polls" was that one would have to have a reason for casting an absentee ballot. That's not currently required in GA, but it is in 20 states: http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx#no_excuse

I don't think GA legally could eliminate all ballot access to just four days, nor should it. But I think it'd be good policy to compress the early voting period and to limit the reasons one can file an absentee ballot.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Kyle_Wingfield @PinkoNeoConLibertarian I don't think GA legally could eliminate all ballot access to just four days, nor should it.


I have been out of the country at election time for two weeks and could not have voted in just a four day window. Its more common than you might think. So yes exceptions should still be allowed. 

332-206
332-206

I'll be looking for this excellent, non-partisan proposal to be enacted in Georgia at the earliest possible moment.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

 Most of these situations don’t require three weeks of early voting plus an even longer period of “no reason” absentee voting.

Agreed. And if I were in a position to fashion a compromise, I'd gladly exchange a few days of early voting for several days of 24-hour access to polls, as you've suggested.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle’s argument about early voting based on the Tyron Brooks case - even with all those qualifications - doesn’t pass even the laugh test. It could be used against making virtually any decision earlier than at the very last possible moment. Wait with voting, a candidate might be disqualified. Wait with a marriage proposal, you might find somebody better. Wait with a decision for foreign vacation travel as long as possible – in the country you want to visit there may appear an epidemic, strikes, terrorism. It is procrastination elevated to false wisdom. What is the percentage of all candidates in all the elections, who have been disqualified during the early voting period?

There is no mystery why it is the Republican party that opposes early voting.Because restrictions of the time for casting a vote most affect the people who are more likely vote for Democrats than for the Republicans – people who find it most difficult to find the time for it, people who need transportation. The opinion that “those situations” (being out of town, having schedules keeping them away, long lines) do not require three weeks of early voting is an opinion of someone unfamiliar with the lives of people coming home from work too tired to go out again, single moms having difficulty to find someone to take care of children, farmers working in the field, old people needing transportation. How easy and sanctimonious it is to make judgment about the spare time of people we do not know!

Also, it is not a valid argument against early voting that

“A longer early voting period gives candidates and parties more time to concentrate on getting their most committed voters to the polls before Election Date.”

We do have a system of political parties. It is natural for those parties to try to get as many of their supporters to the polls. How would it serve democracy better to make it more difficult for the parties to get their supporters to the polls?

If there is a valid reason against early voting, it certainly does not appear in Kyle’s column.