Early Voting Is An Objective Good

By Jesse Taylor
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 17:11 EDT
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imageThe National Review opines today that early voting is bad for democracy, for two key reasons.

The first is that early voting deprives us of potential last-minute information that could sway our votes. This would be a better point coming from an organ that wasn’t a diehard partisan magazine which began shilling for John McCain roughly thirty seconds after he defeated their chosen faux-Reagan, Mitt Romney or, perhaps, anyone else in the world.

I defy anyone at the National Review to show me the bit of potential information that could have swayed them from voting for McCain, particularly given that they still support Bush (except when it’s impolitic to do so). Early voting works precisely for the partisans who are ironclad in their preferences, allowing them to register their vote and, potentially, not clog the overcrowded polls on the final day. If early voting is good enough for the elderly, the infirm and the merely absent, why isn’t it good enough for other informed voters?

The second rationale is that we must go to the polls together, because otherwise some evil monarchy will arise from our already-cast ballots and threaten to overtake the communal exercise of the franchise, and then, uh, taxes and abortions:

Voting is by its nature a communal exercise, and the franchise should be exercised in a way that reminds us that in our republic the people are the masters of the state, not the other way around — that we are citizens, not subjects. Americans are accustomed to convenience in all things, but votes are not cheeseburgers and need not be handed through drive-thru windows or collected on websites. There is nothing like a presidential campaign to remind us that democracy is not especially majestic, but there is a kind of austere beauty in free people coming together to cast their votes, whether they are purple-fingered Iraqis or citizens of the world’s oldest democracy gathering at schoolhouses and town halls. The togetherness of that exercise should not be diminished. There will always be some necessary exceptions, but those should be — exceptional. Today is the day to vote.

Again, if we’re to look at the accepted and necessary practice of absentee voting, are we to conclude that those core groups which routinely use it are somehow divorced from the democratic process and unaware of the nature of the democracy in which they participate? My grandmother’s voted absentee in at least the past four elections; I’m pretty sure that if when she starts worshipping Barack Obama as her new nubian monarch, it’s not going to be because she didn’t physically go to the polls. I felt plenty together with my fellow Americans when I cast an absentee ballot in 2000 and 2004, because I understood the nature and impact of what I was doing. Also, because I wasn’t a fucking idiot.

And why wouldn’t the people who spent hours in line at early voting locations feel some communion with the hundreds of others also waiting with them? Or are they a part of some secondary fiefdom of last Tuesday’s President?

The crux of this argument has nothing to do with societal togetherness or anything so fuzzy – expanded early voting opens the door to increased Democratic turnout, because the same voters who may have skipped the line or been discouraged by some external factor that made waiting to vote problematic now have days, if not weeks of opportunity to cast that same vote. There’s no element of democracy so problematic as the opportunity for your fellow citizens to make a choice you don’t like.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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