Monday, October 27, 2008

Vote Early and Often: Or Just Early?

The line at this early voting location in Central Florida, the Winter Park Public Library, stretched half way around the building when I stopped by today.

I’ve always been a little concerned about early voting in presidential elections. Maybe I’m superstitious, but I have long believed that a voter should wait and make sure nothing untoward takes place in the days before Election Day that might impact his vote. That’s why they call it Election Day. The vote for president, it seems to me, should be a snapshot of how voters across the nation feel about each candidate on a specific day in November, not how they view candidates during that month or that season.

The news today gives me an example I can use to illustrate what I mean. Until today the big news in America has been the economy, and surveys show this has been the issue most voters have been using to make their choice for president. But today, another big story has been in the news: an attack by U.S. Special Operations inside the borders of Syria, an effort to neutralize what the military calls a “rat line” of Al Qaeda terrorists moving back and forth between Syria and Iraq. Syria is a major player in the Middle East: it holds de facto power in Lebanon, and is one of Israel’s best-armed enemies. What happens in Syria has an enormous impact on what happens in the Middle East and since the bulk of the world’s oil comes from the Middle East, what happens there has an enormous impact on what happens in the world. We don’t know if this incident will grow beyond the borders of Syria, but in the next few days, it is possible.

Voters who have already cast their votes for president, based on the candidate’s views on the economy, might have made a different choice if the peace of the world were at stake.

The U.S. Constitution indicates that the presidential election should take place on one day. In Article II, Section I it states: “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.” You could argue that this article refers only to the vote of the Electors and that it devolves to the states to decide when and how those Electors are chosen. But if you look at the intent of the Constitution, it is clear that they expect the election to take place in one day.

In addition, early voting was designed to reduce the long lines voters often see on Election Day in presidential years. But the way early voting is organized, with smaller staffs and fewer places to vote, early voters often have to wait in line anyway. So, factoring out my hesitation about its legality and efficacy, early voting doesn't even accomplish its stated goal.

However, I really need to stop worrying about things like this. When Barak Obama is President he has promised to take care of everything for me. He’s going to find me a job, give me my health care and cut my taxes—unless I make zillions of dollars, which at present seems highly unlikely, especially if I continue to write for a living. So, I’m sure he’ll fix this early voting thing too. I have always believed all the promises of politicians.

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