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October 18, 2012 4:13 PM How To Get a “Single Electorate”

By Ed Kilgore

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising in a conservative publication where early voting is considered a major threat to the election of Mitt Romney and a Republican Congress. But the Weekly Standard is featuring an post by election lawyer Robert Kelner who argues that early voting is always a bad idea on grounds that voters should go to the polls with the same information about the candidates:

With early voting, there is no longer a single electorate. There are many electorates. There is the electorate that voted in September just after the conventions, the electorate that voted in October before the debates, and then the more informed electorate that voted on Election Day. The vote count on election eve is no longer a snapshot in time reflecting our collective judgment. It is more like a “moving average”—an aggregation of what different Americans thought at different times based on different information.

Zat right? I don’t think so. We already have vast gaps in the “information levels” of voters, and the idea that they become more “informed” by late campaign ads is highly dubious. If, say, a candidate starts lying about what he or she is going to do if elected, you could argue the “information level” has gone down. And at the higher ballot levels, of course, this campaign cycle has been endless, far longer than in any other democratic system anywhere.

But Kelner misses, and in fact doesn’t even address, why early voting and other “convenience voting” methods became popular in the first place: the traditional election day is very hard on working people. It’s even harder in places where, traditionally, incompetent election administration (sometimes quite deliberate in areas where the party in charge is not expected to do well) and harassment of voters has taken place or is being threatened. We already have “many electorates” given widely varying rules for registration, voting, vote-counting, and vote-challenging around the country, which were barely touched by the Help America Vote Act that was enacted to supposedly deal with the gross state-by-state and county-by-county inequities revealed in 2000.

If you want to get rid of early voting and have a “single electorate,” let’s make Election Day a national holiday and/or vote on weekends, and nationalize the entire voter administration system, with a strong presumption that citizens ought to be allowed to vote as a right, not a privilege.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on October 18, 2012 4:30 PM:

    Ok, then how about making it a 3 day Election Holiday, where everyone can take Monday off?

    Polls stay open in all states, in all areas, from 6am to midnight.

    All kids get Monday off from school.
    And non-citizens with Green Cards will get paid for the day - if they decide to come in, and their place of employment is open.

    But it you're a citizen, you'd have to bring in some kind of proof that you voted back to work in order to get paid.
    This should insure more involvement.

    But that's probably too much of a tracking nightmare, so I'd be ok with giving everyone Monday off.

  • bleh on October 18, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Oh please. This is so disingenuous that he ought to have been embarrassed to write it. Sounds like somebody needed some pages filled, or a CV padded.

  • Quaker in a Basement on October 18, 2012 4:41 PM:

    And absentees? What about them?

    Don't people who vote by absentee ballot have to make their decisions prior to election day so they can return their ballot on time? We'll need them to become part of the "single electorate" too, won't we?

    Why does Kelner hate our troops?

  • Mitch on October 18, 2012 4:45 PM:

    As usual, Gulag is right.

    Election Day should be a mandatory holiday. It is, without a doubt, the single most important secular day for all Americans and should be respected as such. Voting needs to be recognized as the most fundamental of all American rights, the one which is the basis for all others. Anything that impedes this right is an infringement of this right, including work and school.

  • Peter C on October 18, 2012 4:50 PM:

    By Kehlner's logic (SIC), voters do not 'choose', they are 'influenced'. Early voting throws in wrench in their ability to 'influence' us. It disrupts the 'campaign industry' - it let's us make decisions without their complete input.

    @bleh is right; this is mindless drivel. Republicans don't like early voting because they are making a play for the low-information voters who vote at the last minute, usually going with their 'gut'.

  • Lucia on October 18, 2012 5:27 PM:

    But Kelner misses, and in fact doesn’t even address, why early voting and other “convenience voting” methods became popular in the first place: the traditional election day is very hard on working people.

    He doesn't address it because for Republicans "very hard on working people" is a feature, not a bug.

  • E. Hatt-Swank on October 18, 2012 5:33 PM:

    Thank you for this, Ed.

    Kehlner's argument (if you can call it that) is one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard. But even if you grant him the nonsensical idea that somehow voters will be magically "more informed" by waiting until Election Day -- even if you grant him that, how does being "more informed" help if you can't get to the polls because you can't get the day off from work? Or you can't afford a day without pay? Or you can't stand in line for 10 hours because you have to get your kids from day-care so they don't get dumped out in the street? Or you can't stand in line for 10 hours because you're 90 f**king years old!?!

    I always try to avoid the phrase, but these right-wing efforts to make it more difficult to vote are flat-out anti-American. Creeps like this Kehlner dude have no shame.

  • zandruT on October 18, 2012 5:53 PM:

    Voting only on "Election Day" - or Election Weekend, or Election Three-Day Weekend - is already obsolete. Making it a "national holiday" is even dumber, frankly - it just guarantees that nobody will be in town on any of those days.

    Two to four weeks of early voting, which includes evenings and weekends, at Voting Centers located where people vote, that are on public transportation lines, have free parking, etc is the way of the 21st century. What sane person would want to go back to having only one or two days in which to vote? In the old, expensive, feckless "precinct" method, yet?

    Note to geeks: no, we don't yet have good enough telecommunications security nor robust enough systems to let you vote with your iPhone. Sorry.

  • grandpa john on October 18, 2012 6:37 PM:

    Actually, the most preferred system to me would be to let everyone just mail it in , that seems to work well where it has been tried.
    The Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University reports that 37 states allow some form of convenience balloting (no-excuse absentee and early voting), including 13 that allow all-mail voting under certain limited circumstances. Only Oregon and Washington are so-called universal vote-by-mail states, conducting elections entirely by post.

  • Gail on October 18, 2012 6:45 PM:

    Mandatory voting. Early voting. Computer voting.

  • cmdicely on October 18, 2012 7:07 PM:

    But the Weekly Standard is featuring an post by election lawyer Robert Kelner who argues that early voting is always a bad idea on grounds that voters should go to the polls with the same information about the candidates

    Presumably, then, absentee voting and, heck, even having the polls open and close at different times (different UTC times, not different local times) in different geographical regions are also always bad ideas for the exact same reason.

    Heck, by that argument, all voters should be compelled to vote at the exact same instant to assure that the election represents a "snapshot in time".

  • zandru on October 18, 2012 7:28 PM:

    (sorry about that extra "T" earlier - it wasn't meant as a political statement...)

    "Actually, the most preferred system to me would be to let everyone just mail it in , that seems to work well where it has been tried."

    Yeah, and mail-in absentee is the area where the most vote fraud has been found and successfully prosecuted. You also get the least assurance that the ballot you turned in has actually been counted, and the least recourse if it is not.

    States which have moved to all-mail balloting insist it's perfect - and don't want to even consider the alternative.

  • anandine on October 19, 2012 10:45 AM:

    Let's vote on Veteran's Day. We can rename it Patriot's Day (suck it, Massachusetts). We can have it on either November 11 or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (which is cooler to say and no more arbitrary than November 11).

  • bilben on October 19, 2012 6:08 PM:

    In an op-ed published in the Washington Post during the Bush-Gore imbroglio, a professional election consultant pointed out that weekend voting is not necessarily preferable:
    1) there will be problems getting enough poll workers
    2) lots of voters might just blow the election off and enjoy the weekend
    Food for thought

  • Mitch on October 19, 2012 6:31 PM:

    @zandruT on October 18, 2012 5:53 PM:

    "Making it a "national holiday" is even dumber, frankly - it just guarantees that nobody will be in town on any of those days."

    I disagree.

    Were voting a holiday, yeah, lots of people would blow it off to enjoy their extra vacation day.

    But those are the people who are not going to vote anyway. So I don't care too much about them. I wish that every citizen would vote, but we do not live in a world of wish fulfillment.

    The reason to make it a holiday is to ensure that those who want to vote will not be prevented due to the contraints of work or commuting. People who want to vote, who want to live up to their responsibility as a citizen of a democratic republic, would not skip out of town on election day.

    It is the people who want to vote but cannot because of work/school/whatever who need to be given the chance. The irresponsible among us will remain irresponsible.

  • civarifsciz on December 08, 2012 12:09 PM:

    The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this 1. I mean, I know it was my selection to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about some thing that you could fix if you ever werent too busy searching for attention.


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