Peter Funt has an op-ed at USA Today this week where he bemoans one of the more ugly aspects of the entire Democratic primary process. It’s not the clown car full of candidates they started out with, Iowa’s seeming inability to count past ten without removing its shoes or the arcane rules of the Nevada caucus. He’s not even complaining about the packed debate stages where candidates sometimes only received about five minutes to speak out of two hours.
Those are all problems, of course, but what Funt is focusing on is the Democratic penchant for extending early voting further and further ahead of the scheduled election date. He points out that voters in Minnesota began casting ballots on January 17th. Vermont started the day after and Californians were voting a full month ahead of Super Tuesday. And that is leading to serious levels of voter remorse.
Does that timing make any sense? Democrats — those running and those voting — are stressed enough without competing with the calendar.
Consider the fate of Buttigieg’s early voters. In California, roughly 3 million people had voted before he dropped out, and based on Real Clear Politics polling averages Monday night, that means about 240,000 Californians gave him meaningless votes. In Texas, the second largest Super Tuesday state, about 1 million Democrats voted early. So based on the state polling average, Buttigieg received an estimated 55,000 early votes.
Klobuchar, who dropped out a day after Buttigieg, probably got about 150,000 early votes in California and 50,000 in Texas. And businessman Tom Steyer, who quit the race late Saturday, received 105,000 worthless votes from the two states.
Funt goes on to point out that just in California and Texas alone, more than half a million voters missed out on the chance to shift their support to a more viable primary candidate. And while I’ve frequently disagreed with some of Mr. Funt’s other positions, he’s definitely got a point here.
New York State moved up their early voting dates recently, though I’ve never felt compelled to take advantage of it. And New York is hardly alone. To be clear, we’re not talking about absentee ballots. I’m referring to in-person voting in advance of election day. Currently, early voting in person is allowed without needing to provide an excuse in 33 states plus the District of Columbia. The amount of time you get ranges from as little as 5 to as many as 40 days.
All of those Buttigieg and Klobuchar votes that Funt references in his article might as well have been flushed down the toilet for all the good they did. Similarly, a sufficient number of people have almost undoubtedly voted for Bloomberg in advance in some upcoming states to potentially swing a close race. And now he’s gone.
But voting for ghost candidates isn’t the only reason extremely early voting is bad. Voters who do this also cast their ballots without the full set of information available to those who go to the polls on the designated day. What if you were an anti-gun Sanders voter who had no idea that he had supported the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act until Joe Biden brought it up during a debate? If your vote was already registered it would be too late to change it. New information about candidates comes out all the time. Letting people vote a month in advance just tempts them to cast uninformed ballots.
While nearly every state offers voting hours that allow everyone a chance no matter what your work schedule is like, some people still seem to feel the need to get it out of the way early. If we have to have early voting and election day usually falls on a Tuesday, perhaps we could allow it to run from Friday through Tuesday. That would allow nearly everyone to go on a day when they’re not working and it wouldn’t have to be on the holy days of any of the major religions. These policies are simply crazy and need to be reeled back in significantly. Nobody is being disenfranchised by only allowing one or perhaps five days to vote. If you really want to vote you’ll make time to do it.