September 30, 2008, - 7:26 am
By Debbie Schlussel
. . . Or am I right that there’s something wrong with the fact that people started voting in the Presidential election, a couple of weeks ago?
This was before the first Presidential debate, before Sarah Palin talked about seeing Russian Planes flying in the distance to Katie Couric, before much of anything. How on earth can they decide when they haven’t yet seen the whole picture?
Yes, I already know that, at this point, I will vote for the Centrist-Liberal Republican and his Ignoramusette Mom of Van Palin running mate. But I’m waiting until election day. You never know what could happen in 40 days. It’s unlikely there will be a cataclysmic change or set of events that will change most of our votes. But, again, ya never know. Why not wait to vote on election day with the rest of America?
The fact that people are already allowed to cast ballots–and we’re not talking absentee ballots–is symptomatic of the fragmented American experience. And it’s not a good thing.
Whereas we once had a common American culture–a common language, a common national election day, common TV shows (“Who Shot J.R.?” would never be a national phenomenon, today, nor would the radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds”)–we’re now separated by so many choices and gazillion media outlets. That’s, on the one hand, a great thing. No single media source can control what we see and what news were getting. It’s great to have so many choices and options.
On the other hand, it’s now at the point where there are so many Americans who don’t share the same values and don’t know what it is to be an American, can’t even speak English, want to force their old world Mid-Eastern mores on us, for example.
That’s part of why I’m against charter schools. Do you really think kids attending Nation of Islam or Muslim Brotherhood-run charter schools will come out with a common set of American values that are similar to our own? Don’t bet on it.
And so it goes with people voting in the Presidential election a month and a half before it’s time. They won’t have the same experience or clearer picture those of us who vote on election day–the official election day–will. They’re getting a different picture.
And in a future generation, they’ll be part of several different Americas. We have to have some shared experiences as a nation and as a population.
It used to be that you could only vote absentee if you had a legitimate reason you could not be at the polls on election day, like being out of the vicinity or being sidelined by long-term illness or religious observance. But no longer:
In Louisville, Ky., 97 people showed up at the Jefferson County elections office last Thursday to vote for president. In Fairfax County, Va., 244 people voted on Friday, and voting begins in another 11 states and the District of Columbia this week, according to the Pew Center on the States’ electionline.org, which tracks ballot issues.
By the time Election Day arrives, more than half of the voters in some states will have cast early ballots, voting experts say. That will upend the way campaigns typically proceed, because many voters will be casting ballots before the debates. . . .
American Enterprise Institute scholar John Fortier says only about 5% of voters cast absentee ballots in 1980, when many jurisdictions required a voter to have a notarized excuse to get one. In a bid to make voting easier and increase voter turnout, about half the states now offer so-called no-excuse absentee voting, and 23 offer in-person early voting in elections offices and, in some cases, in grocery stores and Wal-Mart stores.
Mr. Fortier calculates that in a dozen states, more than 30% of voters cast ballots before Election Day in 2004, and in five of those, at least half the voters cast early ballots. Oregon has voted completely by mail-in ballot since 1998.
Early-voting turnout could be greatest in some swing states where Republican nominee John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are focusing much of their effort. In 2004, early voting accounted for 53% of ballots cast in Nevada, 47% in Colorado, 51% in New Mexico and 36% in Florida.
Research on early voting suggests it probably doesn’t benefit one candidate or the other. Early voters tend to be those who are most loyal to their party or candidate, and least likely to be swayed by developments in the campaign, says Mr. Fortier.
Making it easier to vote also doesn’t seem to have increased participation. “The same people who voted at polling places are voting at their kitchen tables,” he adds.
But early voting has the potential to alter the way campaigns operate, political analysts say. It takes away some of a candidate’s ability to unveil major initiatives late in the campaign, when voters typically are more attentive. . . .
In both Virginia and Kentucky, early voting actually is beginning late. In Louisville, voting was scheduled to begin Sept. 16, but Hurricane Ike knocked out electricity to the elections office. Virginia elections officials are still proofreading ballots in most jurisdictions. Otherwise, the entire state would be voting already.
What’s their hurry?
Is it so much to ask to wait another month or so to cast your vote?
Maybe in another few generations, they’ll be celebrating Independence Day on another date? Early elections aren’t a good prescription for America.
Time to clamp down on convenience absentee voting. America is not a 7-Eleven. Picking the day you vote shouldn’t be as easy as buying a Slurpee.
Voting at the polls on Election Day is a special experience, that every American should go through on the same day, while coming into contact with other Americans.
Voting is a privilege. It shouldn’t be difficult. But it shouldn’t be so easy and so commoditized that every dummy can vote from home while sniffing keyboard cleaner and watching “The Real World” Season 5,782.