But the mass movement toward early and absentee voting disrupts the rhythms of this republican waltz. It exaggerates the advantages of having the early money lead, preexisting ground game, and known-quantity name recognition of the incumbent. It cuts off critical classes of voters from obtaining the fullest picture of the candidates or changing their mind in light of “October surprises” or acts of God. It makes voter fraud both easier to perpetrate and harder to catch. And it undermines our central political rite — the act that binds We, the People — perhaps in ways we have not even considered.
To be sure, it would be ill-advised to eliminate early and absentee voting entirely. But their use should be discouraged and limited to cases of hardship. We rightly hold in contempt candidates who construct plastic personae out of nothing but the latest polling data, and think little of elected officials who govern in line with the slightest cavitation of their approval ratings. So why do some think it indicative of a robust and healthy democracy that millions of Americans, moved by a moment’s pique or a fleeting sentimentality, can lock in their preferences about the future of the country at any random date and time after the ticker tape falls at the party conventions?