Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Voting Before The Presidential Race Is Over

If you were on trial, would you want the jury verdict before your defense was heard? If you are making a very important personal decision, would you want to decide before considering all the pertinent facts and information?

The answer to these two questions for most of us would be a resounding, "no" . However, nearly one third of the voters in this election will be doing just the opposite. They will be voting early and without proper consideration of all the information and facts.

They will be voting in many cases long before this Presidential election is over. In fact, by October 5, 2008, some form of voting will be occurring in twenty three American states, a full month before election day.

In the Presidential election of 2000, an estimated 12.7 million people, roughly 12 percent of voters, cast their ballots early. In 2004, that number doubled to about 25million, or about 20 percent of 122 million total voters. This year as many as one third of voters or around 40 million people are expected to vote before election day.

Consider that the percentage of early voting in several battleground States in 2008 is expected to exceed fifty percent of the vote. New Mexico, Washington State, Nevada and Oregon will likely see a majority of voters cast their ballots before Election Day.

Of course, it is understandable that members of the military and disabled citizens who have a valid excuse, be allowed to cast an absentee ballot prior to election day. However, the number of states offering no-excuse, in-person early voting is on the rise.

In 1996, just eleven states offered it. In 2004, that number rose to twenty six. This year, with the addition of Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and the all-important state of Ohio, voters in thirty two states no longer need to provide a reason in order to vote early.

So what is the reason for the increase in state sponsored , no excuse, early voting? A recent USA Today article called the 2008 election, "the most extensive early voting process in history" and said it was driven by the desire of bureaucrats to avoid long lines at polling sites on Election Day.

Another reason often cited for early voting is an increase in overall voter turnout. However, there is not a single study that shows that the increase in early voting increases overall voter turnout.

Meanwhile, early voting increases the risk of election fraud and frustrates the imperative for our democracy to be based on an informed electorate.

The Constitution refers the matter of Presidential voting process to the Congress not the individual states. It says: "The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States."

Certainly, a "day" and "time" suggest an election should be conducted on an actual Election Day not the current process of the tabulation of tens of millions of early votes for months.

The United States Congress needs to reform the rules for Presidential voting soon, before early voting elects a president, well before the race is over, prior to election day.

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