Guest Column: Elections Come, Elections Go

  • Tuesday, November 6, 2012

By the time this guest column is published, the November 6th election will be over. Once the results from the various states are counted, the winner in each state will receive their quota of Electoral College votes, with 270 or more electing our next President.

In addition to voting for delegates from the Electoral College, as a nation we will be electing 33 US Senators, 435 members of the House of Representatives, governors in many states, as well as representatives to state Senates, state Houses of Representatives and local officials at the county and in some cases, city level.

What is most troubling is there will have been less of a turn-out of eligible voters than the percentage who voted in recent elections in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In both of those countries, they voted under threat of death and torture.

In the early 1900s up through the 1960s all Americans voted on the same day. There were exceptions such as legitimate absentee voting and for our military deployed away from home. During that time, voter turn-out far exceeded the turn-out we have experienced in the last 30 years. It was also appreciably harder to get a polling place.

As a remedy for ever lower voter turn-out, as many as 30 of the 50 states have instituted some form of “early voting”. The stated goal of this policy was to increase access for American voters and to increase the aggregate voter turn-out. While the access has been increased, this new policy has failed to increase aggregate voter turn-out.

All this policy has really done is to distort, for both sides, the ultimate outcome. There is even a joke that says, “Vote Early and Often.” Hardly funny in reality…

For example, in a few states, people began voting before the first Presidential debate. In all early voting states, voting began before the last Presidential debate. There were surveys done of early voters who had watched some of the debates. A small but significant percentage had what might be called: buyer's remorse. This is because the person they voted for is not the person they would have voted for if they had a second chance.

Most changes of public policy as it relates to campaign contributions and voting have had unintended and sadly adverse effects to our political system.

It seems a small thing to ask of voters to wait until Election Day itself to actually vote. Every year elections are held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Polling places are open, generally for twelve hours or more. The actual time spent casting a ballot, using various types of voting machines is approximately 15 minutes. That is 15 minutes out of a 24-hour day of which there are 365 each year.

It is hardly an impossible task to ask of a nation's citizens.

Voting on only Election Day has the added benefit of having all voters see and hear everything all candidates have to say about the issues confronting a nation and why they should be elected as opposed to their opponent.

In short, early voting should be done away with completely other than legitimate absentee ballots and our military.

Lynn Mueller is a veteran Republican campaign consultant who has joined Swatzel Strategies. His bi-monthly column in the Georgetown Times focuses on economics and politics.

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