There was a time back in the early 19th century when Americans voted for federal offices on many different days. After all, what do a few days here or there matter when a letter took 10 of them to cross the country on galloping ponies?
The advent of the telegraph began accelerating our lives — and the news cycles — up to today’s instantaneous communications, which may or may not be good. Despite President Trump’s love of them.
This is the time in an election cycle when journalists are scratching for some new question to feed the voracious appetite of every news cycle– a new fear, a new angle to fuel the suspense by the hour up to and through the Nov. 6 elections. Suspense is key. A blue wave? How big? Maybe not?
News consumers need to be selective about their, well, selections of instantaneous media these days. A reporter talks to three people in line. They say similar things and suddenly the headline sees an unseeable trend.
Well, here’s an important angle that really matters: Americans by the millions are already silently delivering their verdicts through early voting.
Ultimately, early voting will change political campaigning forever. If Donald Trump’s Texas rally for Sen. Ted Cruz Monday night convinced any in attendance or watching on TV well beyond Houston to go vote today, that locks in their choice. No matter what happens in these next 14 days.
Thirty-seven states already allow early voting. Some begin as early as late September.
Speaking of Texas, on its first day of early voting there Monday, Houston’s Harris County broke an eight-year-old early-voting record with 63,188 ballots cast, added to the 52,413 absentee ballots already received, for a one-day total of 115,601.
Numbers were possibly increased because of Trump’s campaign presence for Cruz. Of course, it’s possible that was pent-up demand and advance turnout could trail off in coming days.
But that seems unlikely. And the high turnout is not confined to the Lone Star state.
NBC News is reporting that “GOP-affiliated voters have surpassed Democratic-affiliated ones in early voting in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas.” Only in Nevada have Democratic-affiliated voters exceeded their GOP counterparts voters so far in early voting. Our colleague John Sexton had an early take on this phenomenon.
Of course, despite early voting we still won’t know the actual results until at least Nov. 6. That just happens to be the exact same date as Abraham Lincoln’s first election to the White House in 1860. On that historic day, he worked in his law office in Springfield, Ill.
In the evening, Lincoln walked down to the telegraph office to find out if he’d been elected the 16th president of the United States of America. On the way, he stopped at a dry goods store to buy himself a new pair of socks for the occasion.