This column by ACRU Policy Board Member J. Christian Adams was published on February 5, 2014 on The Washington Times website.
President Obama’s commission on election administration recently issued a final report containing some terrible recommendations.
The president announced his commission in the 2013 State of the Union address, highlighting the plight of a centenarian who endured a long wait on the first day of early voting. The 112-page federal commission report has loads of advice for states about how to run their own elections.
The worst idea in the report is a call for states to expand early voting. Some states already open polls weeks in advance of Election Day. In Wyoming, polls open in September, even before the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season.
Mr. Obama’s federal commission wants American elections to start earlier and last longer.
Here’s eight reasons why the early-voting fad is a bad idea.
First, early voting produces less-informed voters. After they cast an early ballot, they check out of the national debate. They won’t care about the televised debates, won’t consider options, and won’t fully participate in the political process.
Early voting means stubborn voters will make uninformed decisions prematurely. Voting even one week early produces less-informed voters and dumbs down the electorate.
In 2000, millions of early voters would have never had the opportunity to consider what they felt about the revelation that candidate George W. Bush had been caught drinking and driving back in 1976.
Those who vote a month in advance are saying they don’t care about weighing all the facts. Early voting encourages stubborn and uninformed voters — something the country could use fewer of, not more.
If you’ve voted early in the past, you should resolve to stop. Wouldn’t you rather listen and learn all you can before you commit?
Folks who vote early should be handed a sticker that says, “I Voted (early without knowing all the facts).” The “I voted” stickers should be reserved for the rest of us who vote on Election Day.
Second, early voting is extremely expensive. When election officials drag out an election for weeks, that means more poll workers, more broken machines, more salaries, more costs, more everything.
Elections are already expensive. Cash-strapped local governments should not have to spend many millions more to run an election for weeks.
Third, early voting is a solution in search of a problem. Those who claim America is plagued by long lines on Election Day aren’t being honest. MIT conducted a study of the 2012 presidential election and found that the average wait in line to vote was 14 minutes.
Big deal. If a 14-minute wait justifies spending millions of dollars, then the U.S. Postal Service should open up “early mailing.”
The Transportation Security Administration should implement “early security screening” at airports. Anyone who has waited for a federally funded Amtrak train would happily endure a 14-minute wait.
Fourth, early voting puts more money into politics. Campaigns will be more expensive and complicated. Leave it to a Washington commission to suggest the nationwide expansion of early voting.
Tell that to the local school board candidate or town alderman who can’t afford it. The right of candidates to observe the casting of ballots is an essential part of clean elections. Early voting makes it impossible for small-town campaigns to find volunteers to stand sentinel in the polls week after week.
Incumbents and Washington insiders love early voting because they already have the money and staff to monitor the voting process. They know that challengers and local candidates can’t afford it.
It’s no surprise that a Washington commission would suggest a policy that ends up helping Washington insiders.
Fifth, fewer election observers means more voter fraud. Election observers in open polls are an essential tool to ensure that the democratic process functions cleanly.
Open and clean elections separate America from thug regimes around the world that thrive on tricks and scams at the polls. Observers help protect against voter fraud because they can record facts and object to potentially fraudulent voters.
Even the Department of Justice utilizes hundreds of federal observers on Election Day to ensure compliance with federal election laws. Either the department will ignore early voting or spend millions more sending federal observers weeks in advance.
Some of the loudest proponents of early voting are the same characters who have tainted histories when it comes to shady voter-registration drives or hauling busloads to the polls. They prefer elections when nobody is watching.
Sixth, the most toxic part of early voting is that it increases American political polarization. It rewards those who are the most extreme. Early voting is a subsidy to those most stubbornly committed to one party.
It increases ideological extremism in the nation. It gives special treatment to blind partisans who make their minds up the earliest.
Just like aiding cash-rich federal campaigns, early voting also helps political insiders turn out the most unbending partisan vote. America is already polarized enough. We don’t need more incentives to fuel political polarization as early voting does.
Seventh, early voting doesn’t increase turnout. Studies have shown that states that adopt early voting have no empirical turnout increase.
Finally, early voting destroys one of America’s last surviving common cultural experiences — turning out as a single nation on a single day to elect our leaders.
There is something good about all Americans coming together on that special day to cast a ballot. Few events in our history compare to the unity we experience as a nation every four years when we all mingle together and cast ballots on Election Day.
Election Day is the great leveler. After a full and robust election campaign, fully informed Americans stand together on that one day and bestow the consent of the governed. Win or lose, we acted as one nation. Treasures like that are worth waiting for, and early voting throws away that great American tradition.