I have never been a fan of early voting, especially not in something as significant as a presidential election. I am of the opinion that there are some things important enough that people ought to order their lives around them in order to participate.
As a Christian, and a pastor, I would consider the Lord’s Day to be the ultimate example of such a thing. God created the world in a span of six day then, essentially and metaphorically, “rested” the 7th Day. God then decreed that people – especially those who claim to be devoted to God – should follow the same pattern; that we ought to set one-day-in-seven as a Sabbath, where we rest from our labors, and commit the day to God in a way unique from the others (which also actually belong to God). The Sabbath is a gift, if we understand it correctly. The 4th Commandment, that requires humanity to observe this day in no way mitigates the gift God has given us in the form of a day of rest. My point in this post is not to make a case for a specific day of Sabbath, nor to consider appropriate vs. inappropriate activities for this day, but only to offer it as an example. A Sabbath day, commanded by God, as a gift of God, is intended to be, and is important enough to be, a day set aside, around which we build our weekly schedules.
While less important cosmically than a Sabbath, in the civil sense Election Day is monumental enough that people ought to set the day aside, and vote on the appointed day, whenever possible. In other words, Election Day is too important to subordinate it to the idol of convenience.
Granted, some exceptions can, and should, be made. For instance, the case for our daughter who, as a student at a college in another part of the state, would find it quite difficult to appear at our home precinct. She needs some accommodations. I am not sure that an absentee ballot would not be a sufficient accommodation, but in Virginia an early voting option is offered. And students are not alone in their need for some accommodation. Some whose business travel requires them to be out of town, others who may be in the midst of various types of long-term infirmities, are examples of those I believe should also be afforded some sort of accommodation. But the thing is, in Virginia early voting requires a good reason. Simply avoiding lines, or whatever motive for convenience, is not sufficient reason. But not all states are as much sticklers as Virginia is. in Tennessee, for example, which I consider to be my adopted home state, early voting is just one option among many, offered for convenience. As I understand, far more states are akin to Tennessee than to Virginia in this respect.
I appreciate those who are concerned about restriction that make voting prohibitive for some segments of our society. In no way would I want to endorse practices and policies that would suppress legitimate opportunities for any citizen to vote. But I fear that by making convenience a chief factor in our national elections, we have devalued the importance and downplayed the privilege extended to every citizen of the United States. I can’t help wondering if this – along with an unappetizing roster of candidates – has not played some part in declines in voter turnout.
Having expressed some of my philosophical aversion to allowing early voting as a common option, I want to turn my attention to the more pragmatic reasons for my oppostion.
About a month ago – 6 weeks before Election Day 2016 – some political analysts expressed their concerns about early voting. Their concern: simple regret.
“Some people have estimated, and this may be way too large, that one third of the electorate will already have a voted early by November 8 of this year. One-third!”
“And somebody could say, ‘Well I wouldn’t have voted for that person if I would’ve known that that happened 24 hours ago’,”
I am not a fan of October Surprise as a political strategy. It seems to me, if a candidate is worthy of my vote he or she ought to show me why they deserve it; not keep pointing out to me why the other candidate does not deserve it. Someone else’s disqualifying characteristics do not necessarily qualify me. But sometimes, like this year, what comes to light in the final days of the election season are not mere sleazy revelations from the opposition camp, but legitimate news of criminal or disqualifying facts from legitimate sources. And as some political analysts predicted a month ago – weeks before revelation that the FBI was re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton – once certain facts come to light, conscientious people are likely to have regret. But their vote has already been irreversibly cast.
In our present election cycle, it is difficult for me to believe that if the one about whom these potentially criminal revelations have surfaced is elected, that the citizens of the USA will have any reason to believe real justice will ever be carried out. Whether the possible allegations are legitimately criminal or not, I do not know. But if a candidate with a reputation for and history of cover up is elected, unless impeached, can we ever know if justice is done?
If early vote were not such an easy option, those who are already experiencing buyers remorse would not be able to send the nation in such a regrettable direction.