The case against early voting

There are a number of reasons why early voting — whether the phrase refers to widespread abuse of absentee ballots or approved excuse-free mail-in voting or the advance in-person casting of ballots — is a bad idea. One is simply that it begs a very serious question about the desirability of maximizing voter turnout. Is it, in fact, in the best interest of a democracy to facilitate the participation of as many technically eligible voters as possible? Once upon a time most liberals accepted this premise without hesitation — among the miracles performed by Donald Trump in 2016 was the revival of concerns about so-called “low-information voters” (insert your caricature here of opioid-addicted, meme-frazzled easy mark for Russian disinformation campaigns). If we are just taking about presidential elections, it seems to me worth asking whether people for whom it is too much to ask to do one thing that takes between five minutes and an hour once every four years really have a meaningful stake in our political life.

Then there is the problem of late breaking news or scandals. Imagine if the infamous Access Hollywood tape had appeared two days before the 2016 election instead of in early October. If a week, as Harold Wilson famously said, is a long time in politics, then two weeks or a month is far too early for anyone to be casting a ballot except in extraordinary circumstances.

Which brings us to another more important (and more topical) reason for getting rid of early voting, especially in primary elections, namely that it does not actually succeed along the lines in which it was envisioned. Instead of allowing a wider range of persons to take part in elections, it effectively disenfranchises millions. We have already seen hundreds of thousands of votes thrown away in Super Tuesday contests on candidates who had dropped out days earlier.